G Ruben Brown, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, is playing as well in 2000 as he has in years
Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills went into last weekend's action with a 6-4 record and a date in a venue that historically been tough on them. While the Bucs stumbled to a loss in Chicago, the Bills strengthened their playoff hopes with a 21-17 win at Kansas City.
On hand for that Bills victory was the Buccaneers' advance pro scout, who generally is one week ahead of Tampa Bay on the schedule. That meant he was in Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, breaking down Buffalo's strengths and weaknesses and preparing an extensive scouting report.
It's clear from this scout's report that the Bills have more strengths than weaknesses. Buffalo does have some injury concerns, however, and has had a season of rotating lineups at several key offensive spots. Here are some thoughts on Buffalo players and issues from the Bucs' eye in the sky.
· Sammy Morris, who had appeared to be emerging as the go-to guy in Buffalo's crowded offensive backfield, was injured and didn't play in Kansas City. However, the scout's report has Buffalo optimistic about Morris' return next week in Tampa. Should Morris not be able to carry the load, our scout believes Antowain Smith will play a larger role than he has most of the season. Whoever is toting the rock, expect Buffalo to make a very determined effort to run the ball, even with one of the league's better passing attacks. · Speaking of passing attacks, the Bills have had two very different ones depending on who is under center: Rob Johnson or Doug Flutie. Put our scout in Johnson's corner. Johnson makes more 'big things' happen on the field, says the Buc rep, sometimes in both directions. Johnson is more willing to throw the ball downfield than Flutie and go for the big play. While Flutie is rightfully lauded for his running ability, to characterize Johnson conversely as immobile is unfair, says our scout. Johnson has underrated mobility and can get plus yardage with his feet. He's a quarterback that the Buccaneers will have to concern themselves with containing in the pocket. · Buffalo has suffered through a variety of injury problems on offense this year, but they are a noticeably better unit when TE Jay Riemersma is in there. Riemersma recently returned to the lineup, and he gives the Bills' attack a lot of options. Buffalo likes to move the tight end all over the field, sometimes lining him up in a wide receiver's slot. · Our scout says that Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown is playing as well this season as he has in quite a while. However, his pick for the best player on Buffalo's front five is tackle John Fina. Fina is a very good pass protector, but he also run blocks well for a left tackle. He has good size, good athletic ability and he almost always manages to stay on his feet. · Buffalo has one of the best front sevens in the league defensively, and it will be difficult for the Bucs to establish a running game against them. They're a big and physical group that plays the run better than the pass. One unheralded player in that front unit is substitute DT Pat Williams. A third-year player from Texas A&M who originally signed as a free agent, Williams is a 'player to watch' says our scout, a tough, physical nasty young guy who makes a lot of plays. · One significant loss the Bills just suffered is CB Antoine Winfield, who will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Winfield is the Bills best defensive back, said our scout, their best cover man and most physical player in the secondary. His backup, Donovan Greer, did not play in Kansas City due to an ankle injury. If Greer can't go, the job would fall to second-year player Chris Watson, who was obtained from Denver in the offseason mostly for his kick-return abilities.
One last thing our scout wanted to pass along: the Bucs would be well served to stay out of a game that went down with the closing seconds. Waiting on the sideline for the Bills is Steve Christy, the most 'clutch' kicker in the league this season.