Darwin Walker, how Bills fans loathe ye. One of the higher-profile defensive tackles in the league, Walker was supposed to make our defensive tackles good again. Now he's likely talked his way out of town - and left our situation exactly where it was last season. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Other than Walker, Buffalo's front office neglected to add any players of significance to a group that was, for the most part, underwhelming last season. Is that insanity? Or is it confidence in our youngsters?
Like the team's defensive ends, Buffalo's coaching staff likes to rotate their players at defensive tackle. Without Walker, the team has three players whose skills are fairly complementary that will receive the majority of the playing time. Couple that with the fact that the team likes to use ends Ryan Denney and Anthony Hargrove inside, and you may begin to understand why adding a tackle wasn't Priority One this off-season.
Buffalo seems to be working to temper the responsibilities of their tackles. On run downs, the goal will be to penetrate the backfield and force the opposing back outside of their desired holes. On pass downs, the tackles might not see as much time; their goal then will be to generate as much of a rush up the middle as possible. Again, disruption and penetration are the goals, but we might not see the tackles doing it as much this season.
98-Larry Tripplett: Let's face it - Tripplett was a flop last season. His play wasn't necessarily bad, but he wasn't close to the player the Bills need him to be. 33 tackles (second for DTs on the Bills) and 2.5 sacks doesn't cut it - he needs to at least double his production for a truly effective season. A second year in Perry Fewell's scheme should help.
95-Kyle Williams: A pleasant surprise as a fifth-round rookie, Williams was the leading tackler last season amongst defensive tackles (53). Williams does not bring an ounce of pass-rushing presence to the line (0 sacks last year), but his motor is non-stop and he's solid enough against the run. He should hold down a starting job once again.
97-John McCargo: Another "wild card" along the defensive line. McCargo played just five games in his rookie season, and he wasn't very (statistically) effective in those games. But his talent is undeniable - he is the most gifted tackle on the roster, and his first-round status proves it. If he stays healthy, he'll crack the starting lineup at some point - probably ahead of Tripplett.
77-Tim Anderson: Is it bad to call Tim Anderson a "poor man's Kyle Williams"? Well, I'm going to. Nobody wants to see Anderson off this roster more than me, but Darwin Walker is apparently a fan. Anderson never quits, but that's about all he's got going for him. I'm pulling for an unknown to unseat Anderson for this final DT spot.
Rounding it out: Darwin Walker, Jason Jefferson, Corey Mace. Walker's as good as gone, barring a miraculous turn in negotiations. Jefferson doesn't fit the scheme well. Mace is an interesting prospect - he's smart, athletic and a bit of a 'tweener. He could sneak onto this roster, or at the very least the practice squad.
Why didn't the coaching staff address this position (other than Walker)? Easy - the players we have are talented, and there's not much pressure on them (other than Tripplett) because of the rotation. It's likely that only one of them will play on pass downs, and Williams will see a lot of action on run downs. While it's not true to say "We Don't Need Darwin", it is true to see "We Can Survive Without Him."