In the midst of a planned switch to the 3-4 defense, the Buffalo Bills - desperate to fortify one of the league's worst run defenses - surprised some folks by selecting Central Florida nose tackle Torell Troup in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Many expected Troup, a 6'3", 315-pound bowling ball that excels at the unheralded dirty work, to take a large bite out of Kyle Williams' snaps as the zero-technique player (nose tackle) in the new defensive alignment.
If two preseason games have told us anything, however, it's that Troup might not see significant playing time as a rookie - despite the fact that Bills scouts liked him because of his durability throughout the course of a game.
First and foremost, unless coordinator George Edwards is keeping secrets, Buffalo might actually play more often with four down linemen than they do with three this year. Buffalo's first-team defense has played 44 snaps through two preseason games, and just 15 of those 44 snaps came out of its base 3-4 look. In nickel and dime packages, the Bills have used four down linemen on all but one sub-package snap. WAS data | IND data
Troup has not been featured in sub-packages, and with Williams hogging reps early, Troup has played just two downs with the first-team defense this preseason.
Again, it's just the preseason, so Edwards might have something up his sleeve. Troup, to his credit, has looked very good in camp, routinely manhandling Buffalo's overwhelmed reserve interior linemen. Athletically and mentally, he is an ideal fit for the job the Bills drafted him to do. Williams, meanwhile, is not; he's at his best shooting gaps, whereas Troup's best assets are his low center of gravity and powerful hands. Troup controls blockers; Williams scoots by them.
But Troup still hasn't seen enough action early in games, though as Buffalo's starters play more, he'll obviously get more time simply to spell Williams. If he doesn't get playing time, however, it will be a function of opportunity.
When the Bills have transitioned to four down linemen, Williams typically plays inside with Marcus Stroud (last year's starting DT tandem), with the team's 3-4 outside linebackers moonlighting with Dwan Edwards at defensive end. Edwards and Spencer Johnson have gotten four-man looks inside ahead of Troup, who has been relegated to second-team work all throughout camp. Add in the versatility of linemen like Alex Carrington and John McCargo, and Troup is a small part of a very muddled picture when it comes to four-linemen looks.
Troup has a clearly defined role on this team, and he's meeting expectations at it: he's the nose tackle. The real question is not whether Troup can play, but how often he'll be asked to. As of right now, it appears as if the second-rounder may do a lot more watching than playing in 2010.