The theme of changing positions is a popular one for the 2009 Bills and continues perhaps most importantly with Langston Walker, who prepares to make the transition from right to left tackle. He's played that position with the Raiders, and also last season in the Bills' opener because Jason Peters staged a preseason-long contract holdout and wasn't ready to play in the first game.
But now he will be manning the position full time for 16 games. Will Walker be able to handle Trent Edwards' blind side this season?
The Bills' staff believes he's can.
When Walker was at the position in last year's opener against Seattle, the Bills won, 34-10. In Week 2, Peters started at LT, but was out of shape and winded, due in part to the 102-degree weather in Jacksonville. That forced Walker, who started at RT, to alternate between RT and LT to fill in for Peters. The Bills also won this game in comeback fashion, 20-16.
"They asked me to do it, it had been thrown around early and I mentally prepared myself for it," Walker said of the full time switch for 2009. "After the draft, it was pretty obvious that I was going to be playing left tackle and I got a phone call (about it), too. Trent (Edwards) text messaged me and all of a sudden he wants to be my best friend. Trent and I are good friends, but (offensive line) coach Sean Kugler had called me. He basically broke it down and it wasn't too much to explain."
Kugler has been working closely with Walker and fully believes that he is the Bills' best fit for left tackle. The line coach knows that Walker has been a great addition to the team for the last two years, and is more than willing to put in the work to perfect his performance. Kugler has noted Walker's work ethic and was not surprised that he handled switching between the tackle spots so well in the Jacksonville game.
"He didn't say a word about it. That kind of says it all about Langston Walker," Kugler said. "He didn't complain one bit. He knew he had to do it to help the team and he did it and again that's the type of group we're trying to get here -- unselfish, blue collar workers."
This year, Kugler and Walker are even more confident about the switch, because Walker will have more time to work on the left side.
"(Kugler) said, 'You've done it before and we're going to make the move early,'" Walker said. "It's not going to be sort of how it was last year where we did it in the middle of training camp and it was a little awkward. I'll have an entire offseason and camp to work all of the kinks out."
Coach Dick Jauron shares Kugler's confidence in Walker. Walker's attitude of doing what needs to be done without question has given them reason to believe the switch will be successful.
"Lang has played both sides in the National Football League and so the move, when the thing with Jason came about, was easy," Jauron said. "We had thought about it before and thought it made sense for us to move Lang over to the left side. (He's) a very good pass protector."
Still, it will be a challenging adjustment, made even more difficult by this season's schedule. Walker will face many talented pass rushers this year, including Carolina's Julius Peppers, Miami's Jason Taylor, New Orleans' Charles Grant, Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney, and Atlanta's John Abraham.
"I'm going to be challenged, I know that, but that's what I get paid for," Walker said. "I think I'm ready for it and we'll see. (Facing pass rushers on the left side) is slightly more challenging, but it's still a game of football. That guy has to still line up on the other side of the line of scrimmage and I still have the advantage of knowing the snap count. It just is what it is. There's nothing I can really do about it."
Despite the challenges, the confidence shared between he and his coaches combined with Walker's experience leaves the offense secure in the belief that he can capably fill the position.