In this election year there isn't a politician out there that wants to be called a flip-flopper. The politically astute Langston Walker probably doesn't want that moniker either, but in light of his swing tackle performance last Sunday it might be appropriate.
Walker, who had been manning the left tackle position for Buffalo full-time in the absence of Jason Peters, had double duty against the Jaguars. With Peters not in 100 percent game shape Walker had to play right and left tackle throughout the course of the game.
"It's definitely a difficult thing to do physically, but then mentally doing it an extended amount is just a different level," said Walker. "I think what made it easier was the fact that I did it the first few games in the preseason. That made it physically a little bit easier, but it definitely was tough."
Walker started the game at right tackle with Peters back in the starting lineup Sunday, but the plan all along was to rotate their top three offensive tackles due to the oppressively hot conditions in Jacksonville last weekend. So when Peters came out of the lineup Walker would have to flip to the left side while Kirk Chambers came in to play right tackle.
Even though Walker was expecting that rotation to take place at some point in the game he didn't think it would happen in the middle of a series. But it did when Peters had to leave the game for a few plays after getting kicked in the shin in the second quarter between second and third down.
"I saw Kirk running in and I thought we were going jumbo package because it was 3rd-and-1 and Kirk would have to report as a tight end. So I'm yelling at the ref, 'Ref 73 is coming in.' And Kirk says, 'No, you're going to left!' And the ref screwed up announcing Kirk, so that was my fault. I'll take the blame for that."
Facing a six-man blitz by Jacksonville, Walker and company held up long enough on the play to allow Trent Edwards to hit Fred Jackson in the flat, who gained 33 yards after the catch. Peters returned, but then left a few plays later as he appeared a bit winded on the sidelines.
"Our coaching staff said that we would use everybody out there because it was so hot and the fact that it was going to be Jason's first game back," said Walker. "But I didn't think it was going to happen in the middle of a series."
Flipping from right tackle to left and back to the right again in the course of a game is extremely demanding mentally. Some play calls require completely different requirements for one tackle to execute as opposed to the other. For Walker to handle that mental load so effectively Sunday was nothing short of impressive.
"When you flip flop like that the mental aspect is the biggest part of it," said right guard Brad Butler. "He obviously has the athleticism to play both sides, but I know a lot of guys when they switch, just the simple fact that you're used to being on the right side and all of a sudden you're on the left and you think a play is going to the right, but it's really going to the left. It can be confusing, but he's a really bright guy so I wasn't surprised that he played really well at both of those positions."
"It's so side-specific and footwork-specific," said Jauron of the offensive tackle position. "Langston… luckily we have him. Luckily, he's a veteran and a very smart guy. A very, very smart guy and a very talented guy. He's just done a terrific job. We hope it continues, and we think it will."
Jauron last comment indicates that Walker may be called upon again this week to pull the same swing tackle duties against the Raiders. That's because Buffalo's head coach isn't sure when Peters' will be in full game shape and capable of making it through an entire game without needing a sub here and there.
"We'll take it day-by-day and practice-by-practice and week-by-week," said Jauron. "But he didn't miss much. Jason did not miss much in that game, so I wouldn't think it's going to be a long time, but maybe more than one week or two weeks. We'll see. We really just have to play it by ear."
Either way Walker will be ready to answer the call.
"This is a team sport and I'm a team player and the coaching staff asked me to do something and I did it," Walker said. "When somebody needs help I'm not going to shy away from it."
Typical of an offensive lineman Walker wasn't looking for any public accolades for what he was asked to do last Sunday, but his contribution to Buffalo's most recent victory was substantial even if it went for the most part unnoticed.
"I feel like that's not appreciated enough in this league, and especially for our team, to have a guy like Langston Walker to be able to do that in a critical situation," said Edwards. "We were in a tough spot, without having Jason there and having some guys rotate in and out. It just says a lot about the type of player that Langston is and I truly feel like he should be given a little bit more credit than he was actually given."
Walker was given a pat on the back by his coaching staff and his linemates knew the degree of difficulty his assignment entailed on Sunday. But Walker draws more satisfaction from a job well done than a compliment.
"I don't really need somebody to come up to me to say I did a good job," said Walker. "The coaching staff did, but I think that the players know what to expect from me. And I'm going to give 100 percent on every play no matter what position I'm playing. Whether it's left tackle, right tackle or wide receiver, Turk I hope you're reading this. I'll do it all. I'll do what's asked of me to get a win."