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State of the Bills Roster: Defensive Tackles

Stroud makes a difference in '08 (

The "State of the Bills Roster" series trucks on! If you're new around these parts within the past nine months or so, this series is an off-season progression of posts in which we'll break down Buffalo's roster in-depth. From these discussions, we'll put together a "Community Needs List" in priority order, then begin researching potential free agent and draft acquisitions that will satisfy all of the Bills' needs as we perceive them.

We continue our foray into heavy-duty off-season work at Buffalo Rumblings right now. It's our "State of the Roster" series, off-season mode, and we'll continue the discussions by breaking down the Bills' situation at defensive tackle.
  Previous installments: QB :: RB :: TE :: WR :: OT :: G/C :: DE
  New: Prioritized Offensive Needs List


Opening statement
Veteran Marcus Stroud was Buffalo's biggest player acquisition last off-season, and his presence was one of the biggest reasons that Buffalo's defense improved from 31st in the league in 2007 to 14th this past season. The Bills enjoyed solid, consistent production out of its defensive tackle rotation throughout 2008, but have now reached a point where depth could become a major concern in future seasons.

#99 Marcus Stroud (starter)
  6'6", 306 pounds
  Age: 31 in June 2009
  Contract status: 2 years remaining (UFA after 2010); owed $7.5M in base salaries.
- Don't make the mistake of believing that Stroud didn't have a significant impact on Buffalo's defense in 2008. His stats weren't overwhelming - 45 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and seven deflected passes - but they didn't have to be for him to make Buffalo's defense better. He'll be 31 next year, so small, nagging injuries should be expected from Stroud for the rest of his career. He's a guy that must be accounted for play in and play out, and that's absolutely essential for this defense.

#95 Kyle Williams (starter)
  6'1", 306 pounds
  Age: 26 in June 2009
  Contract status: 4 years remaining (UFA after 2012); owed $6.55M in base salaries.
- The Bills handed Williams a contract extension prior to playing games in 2008, and Williams responded with his best professional season. Finishing second to DE Ryan Denney in tackles from defensive linemen with 55, Williams became more of a factor in the backfield this season, also recording two sacks. He's a bowling ball of a player that plays with reckless abandon. The big question surrounding Williams: can he be a starter on an elite defense, or is he better suited to heavy rotational work?

#91 Spencer Johnson
  6'3", 286 pounds
  Age: 28 in December 2009
  Contract status: 4 years remaining (UFA after 2012); precise salaries unknown.
- Buffalo's second defensive tackle acquisition last season, Johnson provides solid - if unspectacular - depth along the entire defensive line. He got a significant chunk of playing time as Buffalo's third tackle last season, recording 31 stops and two sacks in rotational duty. He'll never be a superstar, but he's a very acceptable rotational player that can contribute.

#74 Corey Mace
  6'3", 287 pounds
  Age: 24 in December 2009
  Contract status: Undisclosed.
- Mace was called up to the active roster late in 2008 due to depth issues. He had one tackle on the season. His forte is athleticism, but Johnson already has that spot tied up. He's not a part of the team's long-term plans.

#97 John McCargo
  6'2", 312 pounds
  Age: 26 in August 2009
  Contract status: 2 years remaining (UFA after 2010); owed $1.52M in base salaries.
- The Bills tried to trade McCargo during the 2008 season, but a bad back nullified a deal with Indianapolis. Buffalo's coaches are displeased with McCargo's work ethic and production - he hasn't come close to achieving his enormous potential, and likely won't. McCargo can officially be labeled the first (major) draft bust of Dick Jauron's regime. The question now is whether it will be more shocking if McCargo is retained or if he is released this off-season.

The Breakdown
Keepers: Stroud, Williams, Johnson. Stroud, even though he's starting to work his way out of the prime of his career, can still co-anchor a great defense. Williams and Johnson are what they are - tough, effort players that can occasionally give you big plays.

Extendables: None.

Expendables: McCargo, Mace. McCargo has fallen out of favor with the coaches, and if he can't be traded (again), it's fully expected that he'll be released. Mace is a fringe player at best.

Questionables: None.

What we need: The consensus here seems to be that the trio of Stroud, Williams and Johnson is acceptable - they're certainly all good players. But I disagree. Buffalo misses having a massive run-stuffer, and if there was a weak area to Buffalo's defense as a whole last season - besides the weak pass rush, obviously - the run defense was it. The Bills finished just 23rd in the league defending the run despite the presence of Stroud and the improved play of Williams. Depth is an obvious issue, especially if McCargo is out of town, but rather than merely get a fourth tackle for the rotation, I posit that the Bills should explore the option of a massive run-stuffer that will take our run defense from average to dynamic.

That's it. I'm done with the easy stuff. Now it's on you, folks. How big is too big when talking about potential run-stuffers in Perry Fewell's defense? How comfortable are you with the trio we have leading the way at DT? Have any names of potential additions you'd like to throw into the ring? Have fun with this, and let's get brainstorming.