ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Rex Ryan’s defense is on a roll, and additional reinforcements are on the way.
One day after a big shutout victory on the road against the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus returned from a four-game suspension.
And first-round pick Shaq Lawson is inching closer to a return as well, Ryan said.
It’s more good news for a defense that is coming off its best and most dominant performance of the season in a 16-0 win over the Patriots (3-1).
Ryan said Dareus will return for Buffalo’s Week 5 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
“I expect him to play,” Ryan said. “He’s already been delayed four games so yeah, he’ll play. What capacity, how much he really plays, I’m not sure. But he’s definitely going to play.”
Dareus missed the first four games of the season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy for the second year in a row. He entered a rehabilitation facility after the suspension became official in late August.
Dareus has been one of Buffalo’s best and most consistent performers since being selected third overall by Buffalo in 2011.
“My understanding is he’s in good spirits and looking forward to getting back out there with his teammates,” Ryan said of Dareus. “He was in our building. I personally didn’t see him, but he was in our building.”
Lawson, on the physically unable to perform list, is eligible to return in Week 7 and Ryan said he should be ready to play in his first week back.
The 19th overall pick in the draft underwent shoulder surgery shortly after being selected by the Bills.
“I think he’s going to be ready to roll when his time’s up,” Ryan said. “He’s doing a really good job in the weight room. Now he’s not going to be in football shape, so don’t expect to just come in and start … he hasn’t even been through one NFL practice.
“But we’ll definitely work him in when he gets back and I would anticipate him getting back as soon as he’s eligible.”
The Bills expected Lawson to be an immediate starter and contribute significantly as a rookie, but they now have the luxury of easing him into the lineup upon his return.
Top pass rusher Jerry Hughes (16 tackles, four sacks) has excelled, and replacement Lorenzo Alexander (21 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles) has been one of Buffalo’s biggest surprises this season.
“(Lawson’s) a passionate guy,” Ryan said.
“I think he’s going to fit right in with the guys we have and it’s only going to help us when you’re able to keep a guy like a Lorenzo Alexander fresh, you give Jerry Hughes a couple plays off, I think that helps the whole team.”
Buffalo’s turnaround on defense is a big reason why the Bills improved to 2-2 following an 0-2 start. After allowing 37 points to the New York Jets in Week 2, the Bills forced five turnovers in a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals and shut out the previously undefeated Patriots in Week 4.
“We had a horrendous day, Week 2,” Ryan said. “Our defense played poorly and wasn’t what we were expecting by any stretch of the imagination. This is more the type of team we expected and we’ve just got to stay the course.
“We dug ourselves out to this point being 0-2 to get to 2-2 because of how hard we worked and all the preparation time and the accountability to each other, not letting each other down and demanding a lot from each other. I think that’s the only reason we’re where we’re at right now.
“And we’ve still got to keep digging. And we’ll never make up for that 0-2 start, but we’re just going to keep taking that dirt off us and keep working.”