ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – For the first half of this season, the Bills defense was trying to find its identity and now it seems like that unit is starting to get in a groove at just the right time.
Since week seven, the Bills have a combined 29 takeaways and sacks. That’s the second-highest in the NFL behind the Saints which shows how much progress the defense has made lately.
One big contributor in that time is linebacker A.J. Klein.
“To be honest I know I’ve been playing good football but I still know that there’s more out there for me. Even on Sunday I know I missed some plays, I left some plays on the field but I felt like I’ve always played at a high level, prepared at a high level every single week,” Klein said.
“So whether or not that’s reflected in the stat line or not my mentality and my preparation hasn’t changed over my entire career but it is nice to string these games together because I want to be able to contribute to the team to help the team win and that’s for me what’s most important.”
Klein had a career-high 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and one pass breakup last week against the Chargers which earned him AFC defensive player of the week honors.
“Personal accolades are just a testament to what we’ve been doing as a defense, to be honest. I was lucky enough to be put in positions to be able to make plays. In this league I take everything with a grain of salt, that’s not the tip of the iceberg and personal accolades are not what we play for, not what I play for so if we can continue to build and play good football like we have been we’ll reach our ultimate goal,” Klein explained.
“That’s really what I was around in Carolina with A.J. and he’s a good football player and he’s done a great job for us this season. I think he’s playing very confident and comfortable right now which is good to see,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said.
Klein also now leads the Bills in sacks with 5. He’s really stepped up over the past few games after having a slow start to the season but now seems to have settled into his role and feel comfortable after taking over for Matt Milano.
“I think it was more position based. Obviously I have familiarity with this defense, I’ve been a part of it when I was in Carolina so I have a thorough understanding of the defense but for me it was personally where do I fit in that defense with Matt being out and being injured I had to take over at Will linebacker spot,” Klein said.
“So to be honest it took me a little while to feel comfortable but that’s not an excuse. I don’t use it as an excuse. I expect to play to the best of my ability and play my best football regardless of where I’m put but for me it was finding that familiarity and just going out and playing free.”
Milano has spent the past month on injured reserve with a pec injury but returned to practice this week. Now with Milano getting closer to being activated, the big question is how will this impact Klein’s role? Earlier in the week defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said a lot of it will depend on how Milano feels but they still want to have a role for Klein.
“There’s no concern. I understand how this league works and I understand my role when I came here. I came here to help, to contribute to win and whether or not my role changes or time on the field changes that’s not a concern to me. All I have to do is try to obviously maximize the time I am on the field,” Klein said.