OT Walker the sure-fire starter at LT (photo source)
Once the Buffalo Bills bit the bullet in mid April and decided to trade two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to Philadelphia, the dominant question surrounding the team has been centered on the void created by the move. Once the Bills exited draft weekend with the position unchanged, it became pretty clear that veteran right tackle Langston Walker would be making the move to the left side - even when other, proven options (such as former Bengals LT Levi Jones) were suddenly available.
There is a great deal of skepticism surrounding the decision to make the 6'8", 366-pound Walker the new blind-side protector for still-developing and injury-prone starting quarterback Trent Edwards. The team is obviously comfortable with it; when you trade a two-time Pro Bowl player and subsequently do not draft or sign a competent replacement, chances are you're pretty high on the guy you're using as a replacement.
Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News talked to Walker about his move to Edwards' blind side after day two's OTA practice in Orchard Park. After a 2008 season in which the departed player (the aforementioned Peters) was far more distracting than he was beneficial to the team, Buffalo's new starting left tackle is understandably (and intelligently) keeping a low profile:
"I'm not worried," Walker said. "I've done it before and I'll do it again. I'll do it [as long as] they continue to ask me to."
Gaughan goes on to point out a relevant discussion point, aided by the opinions of offensive line coach Sean Kugler: Walker is a proven commodity as a pass protector, and that should help make his transition to the left side a bit smoother. Kugler agreed, pointing out the following:
"Langston is an accomplished pass blocker at both right and left tackle. It's just the repetition with his feet. Everything's a switch. But he's done it before. So we're confident. He was successful when he did it."
Folks tend to focus on the athleticism and "big, but not too big" qualities when it comes to projecting quality left tackles. Sometimes, however, sheer size can win out; Walker is underrated athletically, and with a full five months until the regular season kicks off, he's got time to get used to his new footwork techniques and grow accustomed to whichever player (likely rookie Andy Levitre) is lining up next to him on the line.
I'll say it this way: everything I'm hearing and reading at this point has the Bills far more worried about their right tackle position than their left. Walker will be fine, folks. He's played tackle in this league for a while, and he's done it at a consistently solid clip. The right side, however, will feature either a converted guard that used to play tackle in college (Brad Butler), a former street free agent that may not necessarily have a position and isn't as valuable in the starting lineup (Kirk Chambers), or a second-year player with only limited football experience (Demetrius Bell).
DE Kelsay improving under Sanders' tutelage?
We spoke briefly this morning about the fact that veteran DE Chris Kelsay has been surprisingly active during the early (non-contact) portions of the Bills' OTAs. We chalked up his two 'would-be' sacks to the inconsistent play of the previously mentioned Butler at right tackle; Sal Maiorana at the Democrat and Chronicle, however, thinks that it may actually be an improvement out of Kelsay. In talking with the veteran end, this little nugget sounded delightful to the pass-rush-starved ears of Bills fans:
"I've been taught some stuff by [defensive line coach Bob] Sanders that seems like common sense in terms of rushing the passer, but it's stuff I've never been taught," [Kelsay] said. "I'm not taking anything away from Tim (Krumrie) or Bill (Kollar) who were great coaches, but coach Sanders tells me, he shows me on the field and then backs it up on the film by showing me guys who look and play similar to me.
If there's one defender on Buffalo's roster that should be motivated, it's Kelsay. He's constantly made the central scapegoat figure for an anemic Bills pass rush - particularly after last season's Aaron Schobel-less effort - and the Bills have drafted two defensive ends over the past two seasons in an effort to help the situation out. With Schobel returning, Aaron Maybin making a strong impression early and other options in the fold, Kelsay is fighting to retain his starting spot and, more importantly, the considerable amount of playing time he's seen in recent seasons.
I realize that folks will remain skeptical about Sanders' potential influence on Kelsay's sack totals - as you should - but to scoff at something like this is premature. The motivation is there, and a new position coach can help. Remain skeptical, but if this is the Kelsay we'll see in 2009 - clearly not explosive, but active and able to grind out more than his customary two sacks - that's obviously something the team will benefit from. Keep your fingers crossed, folks - if Kelsay can move into the five-sack range, that's going to mean good things for Buffalo's real pass rushers, Schobel and Maybin.
Pisa Tinoisamoa update: Bills still in play
ESPN.com's Tim Graham provides an update on free agent LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, who visited team headquarters last week: the Bills are still in play.
Tinoisamoa will visit the Bears and Eagles in the near future, then decide between the three franchises. I'm sure you've read the reports that say that Tinoisamoa is looking for starter's money and that the Bills won't get into a bidding war for the veteran 'backer; the cautious approach is warranted. Tinoisamoa isn't a game-changer defensively; he's a starter, certainly, but you don't overpay for hole-pluggers in this league. If the Bills are able to land Tinoisamoa to start alongside Kawika Mitchell and Paul Posluszny, great. If not - well, let's just say the difference between a Bills defense with Tinoisamoa and a defense without him is negligible to the point where getting too upset is misguided.
The Bills are continuing OTA practice sessions today. We'll have our customary day three discussion post on today's festivities later on this evening.