Friday, September 19, 2014

1968 Buffalo Bills Outlook

"Things are looking up for the Bills this year - from two viewpoints. For one thing, they will still be looking up at the leaders for another hungry season. But for another, their perspective will be a happier one because they have become a sounder club which should making its move very soon.
Certainly there is strength at quarterback whether Jack Kemp or Tom Flores gets the starting nod. Injuries hit both of them last year, though luckily, not at the same time. If they appear to be at equal strength this time, coach Joe Collier may go with the younger Flores, who is a more conventional pocket passer; but Tom is not nearly as agile as Kemp is, and the final decision may well rest with the offensive line.
Buffalo's air game did not show to advantage in 1967, and this was widely due to injuries to the wide receivers. Interestingly enough, this could be the club's best offensive department in '68; at least there's plenty around for a change. The fabled Art Powell is back from knee surgery he had to undergo after the sixth game of the year, and he should start driving defenses dizzy again. Elbert Dubenion, another pass catcher with a reputation, had a sub-par year in '67 but he's still as fast as ever. And Paul Costa, who is a fine receiver but who must improve his blocking, is back at tight end. But keep your eyes on Haven Moses, a 6-2 1/2, 195-pound speedster from San Diego State. The Bills' prize No. 1 pick in last season's college draft, he's rated a sure bet to succeed eventually at flanker. The experienced receivers include Bobby Crockett and Jerry Seither, both of whom were hurt last year, and Monte Ledbetter at flanker. Charley Ferguson, who missed the entire '67 campaign with an ankle problem, is the reserve at tight end. Richard Trapp, a third round selection from Florida, is another candidate for wide receiver.
The Bills finished next to the bottom in rushing last year, but then they only had a one-man running attack. He was Keith Lincoln, the man with the classic form. If fullback Wray Carlton avoids the rash of injuries which plagued him last year, the Bills will have their one-two punch again. And Collier may even find himself endowed with rare backfield depth in 1968. Aside from the returning Jack Spikes and Charley Bivins, a couple of well-traveled war horses, the Bills are swarming with recruits with good college grades. The best of these are No. 5 draft choice Max Anderson, a 5-8, 180-pound speedback from Arizona State, and fullback Ben Gregory, a six-foot, 225-pounder from Nebraska who also came in the fifth round. Rated slightly behind them are No. 9 choice Gary McDermott, a 6-1, 212-pounder from Tulsa, and 11th round pick Richard Plagge, a 6-2, 212-pounder from Auburn.
If the Bills' line has fully recuperated from injuries that laid low several operatives last year, it could be sock-to-it-'em time again. Stew Barber, who had one his best years in 1967, and Dick Hudson, who didn't because he wrecked a knee, are being counted on at the tackles. Billy Shaw, who missed six games with a knee problem, and the improving Joe O'Donnell are back at guard, and Al Bemiller, who must be an iron man after getting through last season without an injury, is the center. A healthy contingent of veterans and rookies will compete for the extra jobs. Dick Cunningham, who can play anywhere in the interior line, and tackle Wayne DeSutter are the holdovers; the newcomers include tackle Mike McBath (Penn State) and guards Edgar Chandler (Georgia) and Bob Kalsu (Oklahoma).
Although the Buffalo defense gave up more touchdowns on the ground than is customary for this unit (11), it posted the best pass defense marks in the league. The main problem in the front four is at right end, where Howard Kindig, the former San Diego Charger, and rookie Bob Tatarek, the No. 2 pick from Miami, will be tested for the starting job. The rest of the unit returns intact, with Jim Dunaway and Tom Sestak at the tackles and Ron McDole at left end. The reserves are Dudley Meredith, an experienced brawler who can play either end of tackle, and rookies John Gilmore (Peru), Chuck DeVleigher (Memphis State) and George Hines (Kentucky State).
The possible retirement of John Tracey may break up that old gang of Buffalo linebackers, but this unit will still serve as the enforcers on defense. Tracey backs up the left side, but even if he returns he is liable to lose his job to Paul Guidry, a 6-2, 238-pounder who has rapidly been coming into his own. Harry Jacobs is perhaps the quickest and smartest operator playing middle linebacker these days, and Mike Stratton on the right is certainly the meanest. The extras are Jim LeMoine, who moves over from the offense, Paul McGuire and rookie John Frantz (California).
The deep backs waltzed off with 19 enemy passes last year and broke up uncounted other passing plays. In cornerbacks Booker Edgerson and Butch Byrd, and safeties Tom Janik and George Saimes, you have the backbone of the Bills' defense. The subs, except for veteran safetyman Hagood Clarke, are young. They are rookies Jerome Lawson (Utah) and Pete Richardson (Dayton) at the corners and taxi-squaders Tommy Luke, Howard Finley and John Pitts at the safeties."

-Jack Zanger, Pro Football 1968

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