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 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 open spots on their 53-man roster after defensive end Alex Carrington was placed on injured reserve Monday. Defensive end Cedric Reed and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy are both on the practice squad and are candidates to replace Carrington.