Monday, December 22, 2014

1973 Buffalo Bills Outlook

"Like any other coach taking over a 1-13 team, Lou Saban predicted marked improvements for the Bills last season. But to his credit, Saban delivered. The team improved by three-and-a-half games in the standings and maybe more so in appearance.
This a young team. As O.J. Simpson said in the team's huddle before the first game of the season, 'Okay, does everybody here know everybody?'
The Bills had a lot of injuries last season so they didn't get to know each other very well. Only about half the players made it through all 14 games and there was a point where Lou Saban was about ready to start combing the stands for offensive guards. The Bills made more than their share of off-season trades and had what seems to be another fine draft; the main job is to patch up the offensive line and repair the linebacking corps. Whether Dennis Shaw can fulfill the promise he showed as a rookie may make the difference as this club tries to climb past Baltimore and the New York Jets to become a second place contender."

-Jim Benagh, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1973 Edition

"The mysterious Mr. Shaw must start delivering his passes more consistently. As a rookie he showed he could. But he has dumped a lot of his throws into enemy hands since that fine start in 1970. Shaw will be pushed this year by second-year man Leo Hart and rookie Joe Ferguson, a third round choice from Arkansas.
When J.D. Hill improved last season, the whole pass catching department was on the upgrade. Hill caught 52, fourth highest in the AFC. Bob Chandler, a third-year man like Hill, caught 33 on the other flank. Both get good distance with their catches. Dwight Harrison, picked up last season from Denver, could see more action as the backup receiver. Except for him, the Bills have little in the wide receiver corps. Jan White, the tight end, didn't see the ball much last season but he's a flyer for his size and may be a secret weapon once this team gets into contention.
Buffalo has the ideal deep backs in O.J. and Jim Braxton. Both can run and catch. They caught 51 passes between them last season. O.J., of course, came into his own as a runner, gaining 1,251 yards to lead all NFL rushers. Braxton, the heavy-duty back, gained another 453 yards but after him the running attack tapers off sharply. This team could use a good number three back now that Wayne Patrick has been traded."

-Jim Benagh, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1973 Edition

"Herein lies the tale to Buffalo's future. The Bills quarterbacks got sacked 49 times for 411 yards in losses last year. Granted there were a lot of injuries but excuses aren't going to prolong Dennis Shaw's life. Reggie McKenzie, a guard who made the all-rookie team, is good at pulling out for Simpson but must upgrade his pass blocking. The other guard could well be Joe DeLamielleure, a Michigan State rookie and first round draft choice. Another first round choice, Paul Seymour of Michigan (the seventh man taken in the draft), could be at tackle. Mike Montler, who came in a trade from New England, could get a tackle berth though Paul Costa and Donnie Green figure because of last year's experience. Jim Reilly, who was out all season with an injury, is back at guard. Bruce Jarvis is at center."

-Jim Benagh, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1973 Edition

"Walt Patulski established himself at end. Jerry Patton played all 14 games at tackle as a rookie. Don Croft and Steve Okoniewski, also second-year men, will wage a battle with high draft picks Jeff Winans (Southern Cal) and Bob Kampa (California) at tackle. But Halvor Hagen, who the Bills think is a 'sleeper,' must replace the traded Al Cowlings at end."

-Jim Benagh, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1973 Edition

"Picking linebackers in Buffalo is like playing roulette. Jim Cheyunski, obtained from New England, could be a factor along with veterans Dale Farley, Dick Cunningham and Mike Stratton. Ken Lee, who led the team in interceptions with six, figures somewhere.
Bob James is an outstanding cornerback. Young Tony Greene and veteran Alvin Wyatt fill the other job. The safety position is improved because of young Mike Tyler, a rookie last season, who joined John Pitts and another 1972 rookie, John Saunders, in the deep spots."

-Jim Benagh, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1973 Edition

"Buffalo didn't force too many punts last season but the Bills did get to return a lot of kickoffs. The punt returns were fair, with Wyatt the best man, and the kickoff returns were good, with Wyatt and Greene hauling them back.
The Bills got a surprisingly good year out of kicker John Leypoldt, who made good on 16 of his 24 field goals. But the punting, handled by Spike Jones last season, must improve."

-Jim Benagh, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1973 Edition

"Buffalo could conceivably start eight men on offense and six on defense who have been in the league for two years or less. O.J. Simpson, with four seasons behind him, is becoming a senior citizen on this squad. But it's a very promising young group that is building, not rebuilding. Look for more improvement."

-Jim Benagh, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1973 Edition

"OFFENSE: The Bills went 4-9-1 last year, their best record since 1966. O.J. Simpson led the league in rushing with 1,251 yards. And the Bills will have a new ball park this season, an 80,000-seat beauty in Orchard Park.
Buffalo defeated playoff-bound San Francisco and Washington and tied a good Detroit club. The Bills also came closest to stopping Miami's perfect season, 23-24, and also gave the Dolphins a good scrap in the rematch before falling, 30-16.
Simpson accumulated 1,562 yards of Buffalo's 3,733 yards of total offense- 1,251 rushing, 198 catching 27 passes and another 113 on five-of-eight pass completions. Coach Lou Saban had a good thing going for him and he used it at the expense of the passing game that ranked last in the conference with 114.4 yards a game. Jim Braxton added 443 yards rushing.
Quarterback Dennis Shaw made a mild comeback from his 1971 disaster by completing 52.2 per cent of his passes for 1,666 yards and 14 touchdowns.
J.D. Hill was the third busiest receiver in the conference with 52 catches for a 14.5 average and five touchdowns. Bobby Chandler added 33 catches and five touchdowns.
The offensive line captured Saban's attention during the draft. Buffalo had two picks in the first round and both are offensive linemen. No. 1a, Paul Seymour, a 6-5, 252 tackle from Michigan and No. 1b, Joe DeLamielleure, a guard from Michigan State. DeLamielleure was selected on a choice held by the Miami Dolphins but yielded for the negotiating rights to receiver Marlin Briscoe.
The third pick was Arkansas quarterback Joe Ferguson, one of those best-athlete-available selections. The offense was characterized by inconsistency. The Bills were shut out once, held to a field goal another time and managed just a touchdown on a third occasion. It is an offense that must average more than 18.4 points a game to survive.
DEFENSE: Buffalo plucked Walter Patulski off the Notre Dame campus last year, gave him a piece of real estate and said, 'Now work for it.' Patulski, the very first pick in the college draft, stood his ground to a degree but it was all very frustrating. It can get difficult at times when you are a defensive end on a defensive line that gives up 160 yards rushing per game, only better than three other teams in your conference.
'The opponents don't just come to my side, they like to spread it around,' Patulski said. 'Frankly, we had our troubles, defensively. We had two rookies starting. Jerry Patton's been on taxi squads for two years, so Al Cowlings is the only experienced man on the line. They've just been sort of attacking us in general.' Walter was not pleased with his rookie performance. 'I expected there'd be a lot to learn but I thought I'd be able to pick it up quicker than I did. In college, we never used any techniques. It was a matter of just trying to knock somebody out of there, that's all. We kept using that approach week after week and getting away with it. You don't get away with that in the pros.'
Cowlings has been sentenced to a fate worse than Buffalo- Houston- so now it's up to Walter and his young buddy, Patton, and a bunch of rookies to improve the pass rush that decked quarterbacks a mere 22 times. Second round draft choice Jeff Winans (6-2, 238) of Southern Cal, No. 3 Bob Kampa (6-4, 250) of California and fourth round pick Jeff Yeates (6-2, 238) may help. Halvor Hagen, acquired from New England, could step into a starting job as should middle linebacker Jim Cheyunski. Linebacker Paul Guidry was also sent to Houston for defensive end Allen Aldridge, who was no higher than third at his position on the Oilers' final depth chart last season.
The defensive backfield situation is chaotic, with John Pitts, Alvin Wyatt, John Saunders, Maurice Tyler and rookie Don Walker, a fourth round pick from Central Ohio State, figured in there somewhere. Linebacker Ken Lee led the team with six interceptions, and Tyler and Wyatt had four apiece.
Turnovers continued to plague the Bills last season. They lost 15 of 29 fumbles and recovered only eight of the opposition fumbles. But the people in Buffalo are excited. They have been watching a highlight film titled 'A Year to Cheer' and they are enthused about 1973. Saban's boys should be so excited.
SPECIAL TEAMS: John Leypoldt scored 77 points on 16 of 24 field goals, which was good. Spike Jones averaged 38.8 yards on punts, which was bad. It was doubly bad because the punts were returned 8.4 yards, a rather high average. Alvin Wyatt was the sixth swiftest kickoff return man in the conference with a 25.4 average and he returned 11 punts an average of 7.7 yards. Buffalo's special teams could be better but they have been worse.
QUESTIONS: The defensive line needs help badly. The offensive line needs help badly. The rushing defense needs help badly. The punting could be better.
STRENGTHS: A new atmosphere of a new stadium, O.J. being a dangerous runner and Wyatt leading the way on returns.
OUTLOOK: The Bills could pull a shocker this season and finish behind Miami in the division."

-Al Levine, Gridiron News 1973 Pro Yearbook

"For a long time, it's been hard to suppress a chuckle at the Buffalo Bills. The Bills counted it as a good year when they won more than two games. O.J. Simpson made some of the finest runs of the season just getting to the line of scrimmage. The Bills' stadium was in the ghetto and the ghetto residents complained because it gave the neighborhood a bad name.
All that may not be changed, but it's getting better.
The ghetto residents are still stuck with that awful stadium, but the Bills will play their games in a new 80,000-seat park in the suburbs. The old stadium had a capacity of 46,206.
O.J. led the National Football in ground gaining last year and the Bills actually started to beat winning teams.
To be sure, Buffalo's record was an un-miracle 4-9-1 in '72. But it was the best mark turned in by the Bills since 1966. The difference, for the team and especially for Simpson, was that Lou Saban returned to coach.
The Bills enjoyed their greatest days during the first Saban era, when the won back-to-back championships in the American League of 1964-65.
O.J. got the ball more than he ever he dreamed he'd get it as a pro. He carried 292 times for 1,251 yards, 35 more than Larry Brown of Washington. Saban's idea was not only to make total use of the game's most exciting runner but to cut down on his team's mistakes.
Saban reasoned that his offensive lads could get into less mischief if they concentrated solely on giving O.J. some daylight. The result was far fewer turnovers and some impressive holes for the Juice. Even the wide receivers, J.D. Hill and Bob Chandler, blocked.
Given some help, O.J. became worth the price of admission. He went over 100 yards six times, raced 94 yards- longest in four NFL seasons- for a touchdown against Pittsburgh's good defense and then capped the year with a spectacular show that helped sink the Washington Redskins in a final upset.
Saban gave him a hard-blocking, hard-running cohort, Jim Braxton, but the coach is pondering an even more explosive partner this season. He is Randy Jackson, the sole survivor of the plane crash which wiped out the Wichita University team three years ago.
Actually, Simpson had his spectacular year despite a severe handicap. The Bills went through seven guards, four centers and four tackles in a scourge of illness and injury.
To backstop against another siege like that, Saban used both his first round draft picks to acquired offensive linemen, tackle Paul Seymour of Michigan and guard Joe DeLamiellere of Michigan State. In addition, he traded for guard Mike Montler of New England, and two solid starters, center Bruce Jarvis and guard Irv Goode, come off the injury list.
The Bills haven't abandoned the passing game, even if it appears that way at times. Dennis Shaw hasn't duplicated the rookie season he had three years ago but his 14 '72 touchdown passes tied a club record.
Hill, an embryo superstar, and Chandler split 10 scoring receptions last year.
John Leypoldt was a walk-on surprise in training camp two years ago and now has two better-than-satisfactory field goaling seasons to his credit.
While Saban has made good progress in lining up studs to grind it out on offense, it has been slower going in his effort to build a defense.
Walt Patulski was the No. 1 pick in the whole draft last year, and the big end from Notre Dame justified the honor by having a strong season. The Bills picked up another prize when they claimed rookie tackle Don Croft from Baltimore. Two openings remain, however. One may be filled by end Halvor Hagen, another trade acquisition from New England.
The team's most critical area is linebacking. The trade with New England brought a middle linebacker, Jim Cheyunski. Ken Lee, a youngster who played only part-time last year but led the club in interceptions, will be moved outside.
Steadiest of the outside linebackers was Dave Washington, the stringbean from Denver. Mike Stratton has been around a dozen seasons but young Dale Farley, the ex-Dolphin, got to start the last game and played strongly against Miami. He will get a chance at the first-string job.
The Bills possess cornerbacks a contender would envy. Robert James made the Pro Bowl last year and Don Shula, the Miami coach, calls him 'the best in the conference.' His counterpart, Tony Greene, covers as well as most anyone in the AFC.
Safety is a problem. John Saunders, a rookie claimed off the Los Angeles roster, Chuck Detwiler, an acquisition from San Diego, and soph Maurice Tyler will try to unscramble it."

-Larry Felser, Pro Football 1973

"QUARTERBACKS: Shaw hasn't lived up to the promise of his rookie season. Leo Hart didn't look like the answer in his brief appearances. Joe Ferguson had a bad senior season but he could have a pro future. Matt Reed may be a tight end.
Performance Quotient: 4 [1 through 5, 1 being best]
RUNNING BACKS: O.J. finally moved mountains, just as they said he would when he was a legend in college. Who knows what he could do with first-rate blocking? Braxton came strong at the end, looking like a competent power back. Jackson has great potential. Bo Cornell, from the Browns, and Ted Koy are scheduled for spot duty.
Performance Quotient: 2
RECEIVERS: Hill finished fourth in the AFC with 52 catches and also scored five touchdowns, yet J.D. hasn't approached his full potential. He could be one of the great ones. Chandler, a great athlete with less than great tools, caused Haven Moses to be traded to Denver for Dwight Harrison. Dwight is future stock. Jan White, undersized for NFL tight ends, wasn't thrown to much. Jack Gehrke, from Denver, is nothing special. Wallace Francis is a sleeper.
Performance Quotient: 3
INTERIOR LINEMEN: Big changeover is due here. An injury siege caused constant change in last year's line. Only enormous Donnie Green, in his third year as a starter, stayed constant. Ex-Jet Dave Foley played better for Buffalo than he ever did in New York. Reggie McKenzie made the All-Rookie club. He was '72's best lineman here. Goode, hurt in a preseason game, sat out the campaign. Jarvis got hurt in the opener and never played again. Montler, from New England can step in if somebody falters.
Coach Saban made Seymour and DeLamielleure his two first round draftees.
Performance Quotient: 3
KICKERS: Mike Clark broke his arm in a summer game. Leypoldt had his second promising season with a 16-for-24 field goal performance. Punter Spike Jones does his job.
Performance Quotient: 2"

-Larry Felser, Pro Football 1973

"FRONT LINEMEN: Patulski ended up playing like the No. 1 pick in the draft in the draft is supposed to play. Part of the Bills' future is tied to his development. A master stroke was claiming rookie Croft from the Colts. Baltimore made an error. He played as well as Patulski. Another hole was filled when Jerry Patton was plucked off Minnesota's taxi squad. Hagen, new to Buffalo and new to defense, could be a gem. Jeff Winans was drafted high for an eventual starting spot. Allen Aldridge came in a trade with Houston. The others fight to stay.
Performance Quotient: 3
LINEBACKERS: One of Buffalo's major trouble spots. No one is proven here. Dick Cunningham and Cheyunski, from New England, duel here. Lee looked sharp at times last year. He will go outside. Stratton finished well, but at 32 how long has he got? Washington, acquired from Denver last year, has been a peaks-and-valleys guy throughout his career. Ex-Dolphin Farley may get a big shot. John Skorupan made All-America at Penn State.
Performance Quotient: 4
CORNERBACKS: James quietly edged into the ne-plus-ultra of cornerbacks. He puts clamps on the stars, and made All-Pro. Greene demonstrated first-rate coverage ability in his first year as a starter. Newcomer Don Walker could battle Leon Garror and Alvin Wyatt, the kick returner, for a place on the bench.
Performance Quotient: 2
SAFETIES: Another troublesome area. Saunders, plucked from L.A. as a rookie, started late and showed well. Tyler played brilliantly at times as a rookie. Detwiler, a former San Diego starter, can help here.
Performance Quotient: 3"

-Larry Felser, Pro Football 1973

1973 Buffalo Bills Preseason Depth Charts
Dennis Shaw (San Diego State)
Leo Hart (Duke)
Joe Ferguson (Arkansas)*
Matt Reed (Grambling)*

Running Backs
O.J. Simpson (USC)
Jim Braxton (West Virginia)
Randy Jackson (Wichita)
Bo Cornell (Washington)
Ted Koy (Texas)

J.D. Hill (W) (Arkansas)
Bob Chandler (W) (USC)
Jan White (T) (Ohio State)
Dwight Harrison (W) (Texas A & I)
Jack Gehrke (W) (Utah)
Wallace Francis (W) (Texas AM & N)*
James Ford (T) (Henderson State)
(W)-Wide Receiver  (T)-Tight End

Interior Linemen
Donnie Green (T) (Purdue)
Dave Foley (T) (Ohio State)
Reggie McKenzie (G) (Michigan)
Irv Goode (G) (Kentucky)
Bruce Jarvis (C) (Washington)
Mike Montler (G) (Colorado)
Paul Seymour (T) (Michigan)*
Joe DeLamielleure (G) (Michigan State)*
Bob Penchion (G) (Alcorn A & M)
(T)-Tackle  (G)-Guard  (C)-Center

John Leypoldt
Mike Clark (Texas A & M)
Spike Jones (Georgia)

Front Linemen
Walt Patulski (E) (Notre Dame)
Halvor Hagen (E) (Weber State)
Don Croft (T) (Texas-El Paso)
Jerry Patton (T) (Nebraska)
Jeff Winans (T) (USC)*
Allen Aldridge (E) (Prairie View)
Lou Ross (E) (South Carolina State)
Bob Kampa (T) (California)*
Jeff Yeates (T-E) (Boston College)*
(E)-End  (T)-Tackle

Dave Washington (O) (Alcorn A & M)
Mike Stratton (O) (Tennessee)
Jim Cheyunski (M) (Syracuse)
Dale Farley (O) (West Virginia)
Dick Cunningham (M) (Arkansas)
Ken Lee (M-O) (Washington)
John Skorupan (O) (Penn State)*
(O)-Outside Linebacker  (M)-Middle Linebacker

Robert James (Fisk)
Tony Greene (Maryland)
Leon Garror (Alcorn A & M)
Donnie Walker (Central Ohio)*
Alvin Wyatt (Bethune-Cookman)

Chuck Detwiler (S-W) (Utah State)'
John Saunders (W) (Toledo)
Maruice Tyler (S) (Morgan State)
John Pitts (S) (Arizona State)
(S)-Strong Side  (W)-Weak Side or 'Free' Safety

* Rookie

-Pro Football 1973 published by Cord Communications, Corp.

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