Hargrove the Energizer
Acquired at the trade deadline last season in a deal with the St. Louis Rams, Bills DE Anthony Hargrove quickly made his presence known on the Bills' defense. While his presence wasn't felt so much statistically (20 tackles, 1.5 sacks in Buffalo), it's undeniable that Hargrove brought a new dimension to Buffalo's defensive line: energy. Not one to shy away from congratulating a teammate for anything, Hargrove made himself a bit of a fan-favorite last season with his poofy hair, high-energy defensive and special teams play and his sideline antics, where he would stand on the bench to pump up the crowd, dance and do whatever else it took to get people excited. On a young football team, that trait can never be undervalued.
Room for Growth
The positive going for Hargrove right now is his upside. Hargrove made the majority of his tackles , QB pressures and special teams plays towards the end of last season, after he'd had a few games to get more acclimated to Buffalo's schemes. He's still very young (he'll turn 24 around the start of training camp) despite already entering his fourth year in the league; it's rare to find a 24-year-old who has as much NFL experience as Hargrove does already. He's got great size (6'3", 271) and his speed and athleticism make him a good fit at either defensive end or tackle (on passing downs) in this scheme. All the pieces of the puzzle are in place, yet something is still missing.
More Plays Needed
It's not a stretch to say that Hargrove will once again bring his energy and positive attitude to the defense - and the Bills need it. But more is needed. We need more tackles, we need more quarterback pressures, we need more sacks. Statistically, Hargrove needs to step it up, because there are still players looking to take his fourth defensive end job. There's a reason, I feel, that the team drafted C.J. Ah You, and I believe it was to push Hargrove. If Tony doesn't have a strong training camp or pre-season, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him released in favor of Ah You, who seems to be an early favorite of Marv Levy's.
The key to a successful season for Hargrove is getting Darwin Walker into camp. Walker, widely considered one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the league, would allow Hargrove to shift out to defensive end on passing downs, where he is a far more effective pass rusher. This, in my mind, would put Hargrove in a better position to succeed in this defense - he might not get as much playing time, but he would be a better player for it.
Hargrove should make this football team easily. He's young, talented and his teammates love him. He was one of the players that kept the defense playing together during some rough patches last season, and that can't be undervalued. But it should also be clear: if Hargrove is going to stick around longer than his final contract year, he needs to produce. If the planets align for him, he should be far more productive this coming season.