Rookie linebacker A.J. Tarpley must have been really bad Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs in the eyes of his coaches.
That’s the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from the Buffalo Bills releasing Tarpley on Monday, just a day after he played 26 defensive snaps in place of the injured Nigel Bradham in a 30-22 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Bradham is expected to miss at least the Bills’ Week 13 game against Houston, leaving the Bills thin at the position. Not thin enough, apparently, to keep Tarpley around.
Head coach Rex Ryan announced Monday that rookie sixth-round draft pick Tony Steward will start in Bradham’s place.
“I think that’s the way we’re going to go, is with Tony,” Ryan said before the team announced Tarpley’s release. “He’s doing a decent job on the practice field. I think, with a full week’s preparation, he’ll be ready to go.”
He better be. As it stands, the Bills do not have another option at the position – which makes Tarpley’s release all the more puzzling. The undrafted free agent out of Stanford had appeared in all 11 of Buffalo’s games, primarily as a special-teams contributor. But he at least knows the defensive scheme and figured to be a last resort if Steward were to get injured against the Texans.
His performance against the Chiefs apparently made the coaching staff not comfortable with that idea. Tarpley was noticeably out of place on a 35-yard rush by Chiefs running back Spencer Ware in the fourth quarter. Earlier, he let Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce get behind him – leading to Kelce being wide open on the play – although it’s impossible to know whether Tarpley was supposed to pass Kelce off to the safeties. Given that he was cut, that could be an indication he wasn’t.
Tarpley did finish with the Bills’ only sack Sunday when he forced Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith out of bounds for no gain on the same play Kelce was wide open down the middle of the field.
Should Tarpley clear waivers, the Bills could re-sign him to their practice squad. They currently do not have any linebackers on the practice squad, meaning Tarpley’s replacement on the 53-man roster will have to come from outside the organization.
The Bills actually have two spots on their 53-man roster after defensive end Alex Carrington was placed on injured reserve Monday. He suffered a torn quad against the Chiefs.
Defensive end Cedric Reed and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy are both on the practice squad and are candidates to replace Carrington.
After appearing to finally overcome the injury bug, the Bills have been bitten by it again.
Carrington and Bradham were added to an already lengthy list of injured defensive players.
Ryan said Bradham’s injury doesn’t appear to be a high-ankle sprain, which can be viewed as a small silver lining.
“Obviously, it’s a significant injury, but it’s not where it’s going to be a five-week injury,” he said.
Rookie running back Karlos Williams left Sunday’s loss with a shoulder injury and did not return. Ryan said the team will have to see how Williams progresses during the week before updating his status for the game against Houston.
“Hopefully, he can play,” the coach said. “We’re not 100 percent sure.”
Ryan also provided updates on the following players who missed the game against Kansas City with injuries:
• Defensive end Mario Williams, who sat out with a foot injury, could be available “in some capacity” against the Texans. “I’m not sure,” the coach said, “we certainly need him.”
• Wide receiver Marcus Easley, who is recovering from a concussion, “looks like he’s turning the corner,” Ryan said. The Bills are “getting good news on him. … Obviously, he’s still in that concussion protocol, so that’s out of our hands, but I think we feel pretty good about that.”
• The Bills don’t expect right guard John Miller, who has a high-ankle sprain, to play against the Texans.
• Defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who has missed the past five games with a knee injury, is expected to be put on injured reserve to free up a roster spot in the next few days.
• Safety Aaron Williams, who is on the team’s short-term injured reserve, was eligible to start practicing last week. That didn’t happen, and Ryan said Williams isn’t expected to do so this week, either. That puts his availability for the rest of the season in question.
Williams can return to the field as soon as Week 14 against Philadelphia, but that seems unlikely given that he doesn’t appear close to being ready to practice. Ryan, however, isn’t closing the door on Williams returning at some point this season. “You asked me about practicing, I don’t see him practicing this week,” the coach said. “He is progressing, though. There’s been some positive signs about his recovery.”
Bills right tackle Seantrel Henderson was beaten by Chiefs pass rusher Tamba Hali for a sack Sunday that caused quarterback Tyrod Taylor to fumble, which was recovered by Kansas City.
Ryan, however, made it clear that Henderson is not in danger of losing his starting job.
“You know what? That was a short week. That was a tough deal,” Ryan said. “Going against two young men that are really good football players in (Justin) Houston and Tamba Hali. That was no easy task.”
Ryan then pointed out that the offensive line’s job only gets harder Sunday with Houston’s J.J. Watt coming to town. Ryan called him “the best player in the league.”
While Henderson’s job isn’t changing, the Bills have made a change to their tackle depth chart.
Jordan Mills, who joined the team prior to Week Seven off the Detroit Lions’ practice squad, has overtaken 2014 second-round draft pick Cyrus Kouandjio as the team’s swing tackle.
We “think that Jordan is our better option for us right now,” Ryan said.