State Of The Buffalo Bills Roster: Defensive Tackle

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02: Marcell Dareus #99 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Buffalo Rumblings is in the process of breaking down the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position. Installments you may have missed: WR, OT, G/C, DE, LB, CB.

There's one position on the new 4-3 defense being installed by Dave Wannstedt that did not have the benefit of a single new face this off-season, and that's defensive tackle. The reason? As the team transitions to the new scheme, 3-4 defensive ends are becoming tackles, and the team still has young players with upside behind starters Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. (And the list could grow, as well, if the team comes to its senses about the abilities of players like Spencer Johnson and Lionel Dotson.)

That may, however, end up being a problem for the team, as Williams is returning from injury, as is a key young reserve - and many of the depth players have serious question marks. Marcell? Kyle? Stay in shape and very healthy, friends.

Age: 22 (23 in November 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2015. Entering the second year of a fully guaranteed four-year, $20.4 million rookie deal.

Put it this way: Kyle Williams was considered one of the NFL's most dominant defensive tackles in 2010, a year in which he recorded a career-high 5.5 sacks. Dareus equaled that total in a rookie season in which he didn't have an off-season training program, played the majority of the year without Williams by his side, and was by all accounts fairly inconsistent. That tells you what you need to know about Dareus: he's an outstanding prospect with enormous upside. With a full off-season under his belt, it's fair to expect Dareus to make a strong push for elite status in his second season.

Age: 28 (29 in June 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2017. Entering the second year of a six-year, $39 million extension signed in August 2011.

At the start of the 2011 season, Williams was playing good football, but was clearly not the dominant force that he was for stretches of the 2010 season. Then a lingering bone spur issue was brought to light, Williams had surgery to repair it, and he landed on IR. He was cleared to jog in March, and told at that time that he expects to be fully healthy by training camp. Clearly, the expectation for Williams is to return to his borderline elite form following a massive contract extension last summer.

Age: 31
Contract: UFA in 2014. Owed $7.25 million in base salary in the final two years of his current deal.

Signed two years ago as the first piece of the puzzle in the impending switch to the 3-4 defense, Edwards actually set a career high with 2.5 sacks last season as a 13-game starter. Now, with the team switching back to a 4-3 under Wannstedt, Edwards will move from an end/five-technique role to a tackle/three-technique one. At age 31, Edwards is by far the oldest player on this list, and may have trouble locking down a roster spot if the young players behind him step up.

Age: 24 (25 in June 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2014. Owed $1.065 million in base salary in the final two years of his rookie deal.

In each of his first two pro seasons, Carrington has very briefly flashed play-making ability, but been otherwise largely ineffective in limited playing time. Entering his third season out of Arkansas State, the college defensive end will be maintaining weight and playing inside at tackle, where he profiles as a three-technique with potential as a sub-package pass rusher. If he has designs on making the team, he'll need to take a significant step forward in all facets of the game, particularly with consistency.

Age: 23 (24 in June 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2014. Owed $1.065 million in base salary in the final two years of his rookie deal.

The hype machine was working overtime with Troup last fall, as the 2010 second-round pick was purportedly in line for a much bigger role after playing only about one-fifth of defensive snaps as a rookie. A back injury, however, limited Troup's early-season availability, and eventually landed him on IR. Still rehabbing from December back surgery in which a fracture was repaired and a lingering disk problem cleaned up, there's no guarantee that Troup will be ready for training camp in July - but that's clearly the hope for the third-year pro.

Age: 26 (27 in October 2012)
Contract: RFA in 2013. Scheduled to make $490,000 in base salary in 2012.

Heard took over the role that Troup played as a rookie, playing essentially as a part-time run stuffer. There were brief stretches where he looked dominant, but like the other young players on this list, he was largely rendered ineffective most of the team. Those flashes earned him another look this summer, and Troup's lingering injury issues make his experience all the more valuable.

Age: 25 (26 in September 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Scheduled to make $615,000 in base salary in 2012.

A 2009 third-round pick more famous for jumping out of a swimming pool than anything he's done on a football field, Gilbert was signed by the team late last season specifically so that they could get a long look at him this summer. Gilbert profiles as a three-technique tackle with pass rushing upside, and may also be athletic enough to get some looks at end, as well. The athleticism is there, but he'll need to play very well in camp and during pre-season action to crack the roster.

Age: 24 (25 in October 2012)
Contract: Signed a reserve/future deal in January 2012.

Ross, a former undrafted free agent out of East Carolina, ended the 2011 season on the Bills' practice squad, and got a reserve/future deal to return this summer to compete for a job. He profiles as a one-technique reserve that could rise with strong play and some struggles from guys in front of him.

POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: It's still tough to speculate exactly what Wannstedt will be looking for at defensive tackle, aside from interchangeability. Dareus and Williams are truly interchangeable (Dareus especially, while Williams is slightly better suited for three-technique); from there on down, that luxury is more difficult to find. Still, the group has a nice delineation between one-tech and three-tech players, and there are intriguing young players to be found in both groups. Health is a major issue for this unit going forward, particularly for Williams and Troup. It'll also be interesting to see how many players make the team; the Bills currently employ 17 defensive linemen, and it's conceivable that up to half of them won't make the team.

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