"While nobody is saying that the Bills are about to start fading like the Buffalo nickel, they are going to rub against some stronger opposition being minted in the league this season. If they fail to repeat in '65, don't cash them in. Credit it to a stronger AFL foundation.
The same wrecking crew that powered the Bills to the Eastern Division crown and to the championship victory over the San Diego Chargers is back, practically man for man. Stew Barber, Billy Shaw, Walt Cudzik, Al Bemiller and Dick Hudson - from tackle to tackle - last year helped Buffalo ball-carriers carve out 1,945 yards through enemy lines, which was the most powerful rushing demonstration in the league.
The backfield, which had domestic problems as well as medical ones, is loaded for power - if not blinding speed - and the Bills are starting the season with both problems apparently solved. The domestic one was taken care of when they traded Cookie Gilchrist, the two-time ground-gaining champion, to the Denver Broncos in exchange for fullback Billy Joe. Billy is just as big as Cookie is, and is six years younger and much faster in the open field.
He will be spotted in Gilchrist's old running spot, and with that big, mobile line moving out in front of him, he is given an excellent chance of developing into a 1,000-yard man. If Joe makes it then beefy Wray Carlton will remain at halfback, which brings us to the hospital problem. Last year Carlton was out of action until the Bills' final three games, and then he came back strong. He's built more like a fullback - where he would play in the absence of a good one - and he is not a speedster; but according to quarterback Jack Kemp, he's 'as good a blocker as Cookie and a damned underestimated runner.'
Behind Carlton are good runners, too, in Bob Smith and Joe Auer, both with good freshman years behind them. Smith has great outside speed; Auer is more of a slasher. The aforementioned Kemp guides the attack with his great savvy and even greater arm. When things bog down, Daryle Lamonica comes in, and while he can't throw with Kemp, he provides a greater running threat. Coach Lou Saban has indicated that he intends to use them both the same way this season.
When Kemp goes to the air, he has as fine a flanker to throw to as there is in the business in Elbert Dubenion, and there are also excellent targets among split ends Glenn Bass and Bill Groman, and in tight end Ernie Warlick.
The defense, which was also the best in the league last year, is better up close. The front foursome of Ron McDole, Jim Dunaway, Tom Sestak and Tom Day surrendered an average of 68 rushing yard a game. Dud Meredith and Tom Keating are prime backup men. The linebacking, which was a cause of some concern before last season, shaped up magnificently with John Tracey, Harry Jacobs and the menacing Mike Stratton. This year they'll be supported by Marty Schottenheimer, a rookie from Pitt, Herb Paterra, from the taxi squad and by Paul McGuire, obtained on waivers from San Diego.
The Bills are most vulnerable in the deep backfield, where their operatives are relatively small. They were probably saved some embarrassments last year by the strong rushing up front. The cornermen are Butch Byrd and Charley Warner, and the safetymen are George Saimes and Gene Sykes. Anybody looking for a job with the Bills can start shopping here first."
-Jack Zanger, Pro Football 1965
"Now that the brutal Bills finally have won the AFL title, they can be counted on to hang to it with the tenacity of a tiger guarding its prey.
If coach Lou Saban has any real concern, it's over whether Billy Joe can perform in the grand style of Cookie Gilchrist, for whom he was traded.
Even if Billy - Rookie of the Year in 1963 - doesn't cut it, there are other possibilities. Wray Carlton, a 220-pound halfback who returned to action late in '64 after an injury, could go just as well as a fullback. In this case Saban would have such halfbacks as sophomores Bob Smith, a speedster, and Joe Auer, a slasher, both over 200 pounds, as is Willie Ross, Cookie's understudy last season. Bob Currington, who taxied last year, could move ahead of everyone - he's got bulk, blazing speed and more moves than the other backs.
But it's the line that keeps the opposition in the real bind, and gives the Bills the all-important ball control when the clock must be eaten. There's no tougher left side than that manned by tackle Stew Barber and Bill Shaw, all-league guard again in '64. Al Bemiller and Dick Hudson are about as effective on the other side. To back them up, the Bills signed their top two draft choices, Ohio State's Jim Davidson and Villanova's Al Atkinson. And Dave Behrman (6'5", 260), No. 1 draft choice of '62, is assured of some spot in this forward wall.
Monsters stalk the defensive line. Particularly terrifying are the defensive tackles, Tom Sestak (272), All-AFL the past three years, and Jim Dunaway (276). Tom Day and Ron McDole are dogged pass rushers and should improve with competition from Remi Prudhomme from LSU.
The linebacking, off in '63, came on strong last year under the revived play of John Tracey and Harry Jacobs, who improved his pass protection. And Mike Stratton made the all-league team.
Buffalo has had little use for the pass. Still, it has the strongest arm in football in Jack Kemp, who can always strike effectively when points are needed; they seldom are. His substitute, Daryle Lamonica, gives Saban a fourth running back.
If you must find a chink in this armor, it could be the age (33) of Ernie Warlick at tight end."
-Bill Wise, 1965 Official Pro Football Almanac
"The Buffalo Bills thundered to the best record in pro football - then gave up on 'thunder.' Or at least that part of it personified by rumbling, grumbling fullback Cookie Gilchrist. He was traded to Denver for Billy Joe, a back of Gilchristian proportions (6-2, 250). Joe was Rookie of the Year in '63 and is six years younger than Cookie. The latter fact might not interest most coaches, but Buffalo coach Lou Saban is more fortunate.
He has a host of hulking linemen, led by All-Star Stew Barber and Billy Shaw (offense) and Tom Sestak (defense); a pair of spectacular receivers in Elbert Dubenion (10 TDs) and Glenn Bass (7 TDs, including one of 94 yards); a consistent and powerful, if unorthodox, place-kicker in Pete Gogolak; and a pair of hot quarterbacks he uses like pitchers - Jackie Kemp (starting) and Daryle Lamonica (relief).
If there is a weakness, it is in the defensive secondary, but some claim this is a bad rap; the Bill defensive line is so strong (allowing an average of only 65 yards per game) that the secondary sees more action than most.
Toss in a good rookie crop, including the Bills' first two draft picks, and perhaps Buffalo can afford to lose a Cookie Gilchrist. Certainly, no other team in the AFL can."
-Tom Harmon, 1965 Pro Football Almanac (Tom Harmon's Sports Information Book)
"The above are enough big names for any club, but the list hardly scratches the Herd's hide.
Defensively, linebacker Mike Stratton and safety George Saimes were All-AFL picks last year, while cornerback Butch Byrd's rookie season indicated he will soon be in the same class.
On offense, the Bills' running game, a key factor in their ball control ability, will depend a great deal on Joe. However, the load will not be his alone. Late last season Wray Carlton, a big halfback, came off the injured list to run and block with authority.
The key position, of course, is quarterback. Saban went with Kemp in the crucial final games of last season and Jackie came through with firm, consistent performances (267 attempts, 199 completions). At 29, he should be near his peak and one of the best in the game."
-Tom Harmon, 1965 Football Almanac (Tom Harmon's Sports Information Book)