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Tripplett tackles lack of sacks Slow start motivates Bills' pricey acquisition

Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Larry Tripplett doesn't need to be reminded of the fact that he does not have any sacks or any tackles for losses so far this season.

"Let me tell you, I think about it every second of every day," Tripplett said. "I'm doing everything I can to get back there."

The Bills' biggest offseason acquisition is off to a slow start. Tripplett has just three solo tackles through six games -- along with 18 assisted tackles.

Tackle statistics aren't always the truest indication of success for defensive tackles, who often set things up for linebackers. Defensive tackles also get fewer sacks than defensive ends.

Nevertheless, it's obvious the Bills need Tripplett to be more disruptive and more of a presence in the backfield. That's the role of all four defensive linemen in the Bills' defensive scheme -- to penetrate across the line of scrimmage.

"I think I need to try to contribute a whole lot more to help the team be successful," Tripplett said. "I'm just going to continue working hard, be patient and hopefully the plays will come to me."

The Bills lured him away from the Indianapolis Colts with a $5.5 million signing bonus on a five-year contract worth a total of about $18 million.

The 27-year-old Tripplett blossomed in his fourth season with the Colts last year. While he started only four games, he played in a three-man defensive tackle rotation and produced four sacks and 37 tackles. The Colts, who play the Tampa Cover 2 scheme, ranked 11th in the NFL on defense.

Tripplett was targeted by the Bills because he is stepping into exactly the same position in Buffalo as he played in Indy. He is the "three-technique" tackle, lining up opposite the outside shoulder of a guard (usually the right guard). The other defensive tackle -- Kyle Williams or Tim Anderson for the Bills -- usually lines up on the outside shoulder of the center.

The three-technique tackle often is lighter than the average defensive tackle in the league. Tripplett is 285 to 290 pounds, so he is going to get pushed at times in the run game. The trade-off is he's quicker than many defensive tackles and should be able to penetrate.

Montae Reagor, the Colts' most productive defensive tackle last year, finished last season with 51 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Tommie Harris, Chicago's Pro Bowler, had 59 tackles and three sacks. Again, however, it's not as much about statistics as being a noticeable presence. Harris is almost constantly causing havoc in the backfield.

Another reason the Bills targeted Tripplett is his work ethic and good character. The Bills coaches are confident Tripplett will start asserting himself more.

"When you look at it, he's been double-teamed more than most of our three-technique tackles in our scheme in the past," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "For whatever reason he's drawing the double teams.

"He would like to have more production. He'd like to have more sacks. He'd like to have more tackles for losses. And I do think they will come for him. The big thing for him is there have been some opportunities there. So when that opportunity is there he's got to seize that opportunity."

"I don't want to make excuses," Tripplett said. "I've got to keep working hard, and I have to get there no matter if I'm double-teamed or not. I almost got [Tom] Brady last time we played them. I've had my chances."

Tripplett is a big believer in the Bills' defensive scheme. He says as the weeks go on, the Bills' players will continue to get more comfortable in their new assignments.

"The nature of this defense is to limit big plays," he said. "If we limit big plays and make a team try to chip their way downfield, we're going to have a lot of success because most teams can't do that. They can't put together 15-play drives. So our goal is to be disciplined, be where we're supposed to be and eliminate big plays.

"I think we're making good strides," Tripplett said. "We have good guys here. We'll see how we finish the season. I promise you it's not going to be like that at the end of the season."

***

Bills offensive linemen Melvin Fowler and Tutan Reyes both practiced Friday. Fowler, who had a sore quadriceps muscle, worked for a second straight day. Reyes, who has a sore shoulder, took part fully for the first time this week. They should be OK for Sunday. Receiver Roscoe Parrish also practiced. All remain questionable. Safety Matt Bowen (shin) probably will not play. Linebacker John DiGiorgio probably will be active, taking the spot of injured special teams ace Josh Stamer.

The Pats' key injured players -- tight end Daniel Graham (ankle), safety Eugene Wilson (hamstring) and cornerback Ellis Hobbs (wrist) -- all took part in the portion of Friday's practice the media is allowed to see.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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