Bills' mid-season additions CB Douglas, DT Joseph making immediate impact
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills' defense is banged up. What else is new?
A few things, actually.
The significant contributions made by cornerback Rasul Douglas and defensive tackle Linval Joseph a mere three weeks following their arrival haven’t gone unnoticed.
“It’s pretty remarkable to be honest,” safety Micah Hyde said, referring to Douglas, who had two interceptions and recovered a fumble in a 32-6 win over the Jets on Sunday. “Midseason, coming in and learning the playbook and being able to go out there and not just know what he’s doing, but to play fast is pretty impressive.”
And then there’s the 35-year-old Joseph, who has combined to play 79 snaps to stabilize the middle of Buffalo’s defensive front.
“It’s huge. It’s huge,” Hyde said. “For them to come in and step in and give us a little boost, a little energy is cool.”
It’s a boost the Bills (6-5) certainly needed after adding the veterans over a two-day span to reinforce a defense missing three starters.
Rasul, a seventh-year player, was acquired from Green Bay on Oct. 31 to shore up a secondary that lost Tre’Davious White (torn Achilles tendon) in Week 4.
Joseph, now in his 14th NFL season, signed a day later to bulk up a line missing DaQuan Jones, who tore his pectoral muscle in Week 5. Buffalo lost linebacker Matt Milano to a season-ending right leg injury in the same game.
Rasul and Joseph were rushed into action, helping the defense remain competitive.
Buffalo still ranks 10th in the NFL in yards allowed, down from sixth through four games. And the defense has dropped just two spots since to rank fourth in points allowed. The Bills will face the NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) on Sunday.
“The leadership they add to our room in addition to them on the field as players, I would say overall ... everybody has upped their game, and that’s what we need moving forward,” coach Sean McDermott said of a defense that could be further depleted this weekend.
Douglas’ two interceptions against the Jets were Buffalo’s first in seven games. He showed similar ball-hawking abilities during his two-plus seasons with the Packers.
Douglas credited the Bills' defensive system for being familiar, and a recent pep talk he got from receiver Stefon Diggs for smoothing his transition.
“Diggs just grabbed me before the game, and he was like, ‘Bro, we brought you here to be you. Don’t be out there thinking,’” he recalled.
Though he won a Super Bowl with the Eagles as a rookie in 2017, Douglas had difficulty finding his niche in the NFL. He lasted three seasons in Philadelphia before bouncing between several teams in 2020.
It wasn’t until his arrival in Green Bay in 2021 when Douglas blossomed under then-Packers defensive backs coach Jerry Gray.
“I had a coach who actually knew the game and taught me to play the game how I played the game without restrictions,” Douglas said. “He just gave me the freedom to just play football.”
The Bills are providing him the same advice.
Joseph arrived with an accomplished resume and a track record of being ready despite being out of football since closing last season with Philadelphia in its Super Bow loss to Kansas City. The 35-year-old didn’t sign with the Eagles until mid-November last year and wound up starting all 11 games, including three in the playoffs.
The time he spent working out in the offseason not only paid off, but surprised Joseph, who said he didn’t feel any soreness after registering two tackles over 30 snaps in his debut, a 24-18 loss at Cincinnati on Nov. 5.
“Body was fine, yeah. I was shocked just like you,” Joseph said. “I took advantage of my opportunity and tried to show them that I’m here, I’m ready, and I’m gonna give you all I’ve got.”
Coincidentally, the two are traveling to Philadelphia to face a team they both played for.
“It’s been a while, but it’s a great environment, and now they’re one of the best teams in the league,” said Douglas, who keeps tabs with some of his former teammates.
Joseph turned down other offers to sign with Buffalo in hopes of going one step further than he did last year.
“The main focus is to get back to the Super Bowl and get this team one,” said Joseph, who aside from football training spent the offseason enjoying his family and working on side projects in construction and the food industry.
Joseph said he’s all in on football now.
“I’m very big into finishing my projects,” he said. “If I start something, I want to finish it.”
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