HERTFORDSHIRE, England -- Despite mounting concerns from his players, coach Rex Ryan doubled down on his confident outlook on the Buffalo Bills' defense, reiterating Wednesday that he believes the unit will figure out its early-season struggles.
"I know where it's going to end up," Ryan said, repeating a line that he used Oct. 7 when he faced questions about the production of the Bills' defense. "I'd be willing to bet anyone that wants to bet."
Ryan has faced public questions this week from defensive linemen Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes and Marcell Dareus about their roles in the Bills' defense after the NFL's highest-paid defensive line has been held to nine sacks in six games this season.
"We don't have to lead the league in sacks. We just want to win. If we end up doing that, we'll all be happy at the end of the day."Rex Ryan
"I would say that I probably agree with them," Ryan said. "When you look at it, should we rush more this past week in particular? That's probably true. I'm not perfect as a playcaller and all that. And I know that surprises you guys. But I try to do the best. If I'm going to make a mistake, it's something that I feel strongly about but if it doesn't work out at the end of the day, then that happens."
Williams commented after Sunday's loss that he might have set a record for dropping into coverage.
"I get it," Ryan responded Wednesday. "I want to say this: Mario Williams, in my opinion, I mean, he did a tremendous job of dropping and when we put him in coverage. And he takes a lot of pride in it. I thought he's done a great job of it.
"Obviously, when you look at it, and I get it, you get paid to rush the quarterback. Well, I try to get paid to win. What I try to do is I tried to get the guy [Andy Dalton] out of rhythm initially and I think initially it was working pretty good but I think I lived in it too much and so I don't necessarily disagree with Marcell and Mario's views."
Ryan has emphasized since taking the Bills' head-coaching job in January that he won't put a "muzzle" on players and prevent them from criticizing their coach.
"I think in the heat of the battle, we're so competitive," he said Wednesday. "And sometimes when it doesn't go well, you're searching for answers, you're doing different things like that. All these guys want to do is help. And they want to win. And if they make a comment or whatever, that's fine. You know, shoot, I've been cussed at by better than them. So it's fine."
The Bills led the NFL with 54 sacks last season under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, something Ryan believes has caused offenses to adjust this season.
"I think you can look at the way they're protecting us," he explained. "We're getting an extra man in protection almost every game that we play. If you lead the league in sacks, and you've got that kind of line that we have, this just in: They're going to try to find ways to block you. And some of them we've seen the ball comes out quick and all that.
"We don't have to lead the league in sacks. We just want to win. If we end up doing that, we'll all be happy at the end of the day. But now, I think when I look at it, I've never been looked at as the weakness of a football team before. I've always looked at it as a strength. And you know, at the end of the day, that's where we'll be."
Even Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly weighed in on the subject this week in London, telling Yahoo! Sports that he wonders why Williams is one of the NFL's highest-paid pass-rushers only to drop into coverage more often in Ryan's defense.
"We haven't had the results that we've wanted," Ryan said. "There's no question about that. So it's not due to lack of effort, I can assure you of that. And desire and passion all that. We have it. It's just that the result just hasn't been what we want it to be. But again, I truly believe that we're gonna get better and it's getting ready to happen around the corner."