"Don't look for Buffalo to stampede its way to a third consecutive title this year. Some prize Bulls were pulled from the herd to help stock the new team in Miami, leaving the defending AFL champs somewhat more docile than usual. The hunch here is that they'll go home second best this time.
New head coach Joel Collier is inheriting essentially the same team that made a shambles of the Eastern Division race last year. But the Bills aren't as deep in replacements as they formerly were, and an injury here or there could immobilize them. Gone from last season's squad are fullback Billy Joe, split end Bo Roberson, offensive tackle Jim Davidson and defensive tackle Howard Simpson to Miami, as well as defensive tackle Tom Keating and guard George Flint to Oakland as payment for obtaining Roberson last year. But perhaps the Bills' biggest loss is that of kicking specialist Pete Gogolak who skipped to the New York Giants.
The framework of Buffalo's powerful defense is still intact, though. Roland McDole, Jim Dunaway, Tom Sestak and Tom Day comprise the most explosive foursome in the league. They are so good at harassing the passer that they often go into a three-man rush, leaving Day, the lightweight of the unit at 6-3 and 254 pounds, to drop back as an extra linebacker. And there is nothing tame about the linebacking corps, either. John Tracey, Harry Jacobs and Mike Stratton are a seasoned and aggressive combination that usually anticipates the opposition's thinking. Bill Laskey and Marty Schottenheimer are able reserves.
Nobody intimidates the deep pass-defending combo of cornerbacks Booker Edgerson and Butch Byrd, and safetymen Hagood Clarke and George Saimes, which accounted for 21 interceptions last year. And in Charley Warner and Gene Sykes, the club has experienced reinforcements; rookies who could help out are Charley King from Purdue and his brother Tony from Findlay College.
The offense will get its cue from Jack Kemp, the wizard who plays quarterback for the Bills. Jack finished fourth among the league's passers last year, but he was second to none in field generalship. Behind him the Bills have Daryle Lamonica, who could play first-string for practically any other club in the league. The passing attack was considerably handicapped last year when both Glenn Bass and Elbert Dubenion were knocked out of action. They're fit again, and Dubenion claims he worked his way back into shape as a truant officer during the off-season. The other receiver is tight end Paul Costa, who was the only rookie to crash the regular lineup last season. In reserve, the Bills have Ed Rutkowski and Ernie Warlick, who came through in old pro style in the championship game. The best rookie prospect is split end Bobby Crockett of Arkansas.
The running game doesn't shape up as overpowering, and this is where the Bills may feel the pinch this season. Wray Carlton moves back to the fullback slot where he's better suited, and a host of candidates, led by Bobby Smith, will try to wrest the regular halfback job. Smith is a third-year man with good potential but he has never put things together. Bob Burnett, the No. 4 draft choice from Arkansas, Pete Mills and Ken McLean are his chief rivals. Another hopeful is fullback Willie Ross, a third-year man who is rated as an exceptional pass blocker.
Across the interior line, tackles Stew Barber and Dick Hudson, guards Bill Shaw and Joe O'Donnell and center Al Bemiller will still menace the opposition. But the ranks are thin behind them. Dave Behrman, the regular center, has back problems and nobody will know how serious they are until he attempts to play. Remi Prudhomme is a second-year guard, and rookies Bill Earhart and Wayne DeSutter are the replacements at tackle."
-Jack Zanger, Pro Football 1966