1 Buffalo Bills Defensive help has arrived for a team and a coach that are facing a make-or-break season

August 31, 2003

Two years ago, in his first season as Buffalo coach, Gregg
Williams inherited a team with $21 million in dead cap space and
a crying need for a quarterback. The Bills finished 3-13. Last
year they still had $18 million in dead cap money, and they had
solved the quarterback problem by trading for Drew Bledsoe, but
the defense was shaky. They finished 8-8, one game behind the AFC
East-winning Jets, in the most competitive division in the NFL.

Williams is now in the last year of a contract that has not been
extended. The dead cap money has just about cleared up, defensive
help has arrived, and the buzz around Buffalo is that the Bills
have to go at least 9-7 and make some kind of a playoff run for
Williams to keep his job.

"Not so," says president and general manager Tom Donohoe, who
holds Williams's fate in his hands. "We want to be fair to the
coaches regarding things they have no control over, like
injuries, but at the same time we want to see an improved,
competitive team."

The top priority was fixing the defense, and the first of the
free agents to arrive was Jeff Posey, an outside rusher who led
the Texans in sacks last year. Two weeks later the Bills showed
the world they were serious by putting together a $32 million
package to land the Bengals' Takeo Spikes, the most highly sought
defensive free agent and the finest linebacker never to have been
chosen for the Pro Bowl. Call it his misfortune for having spent
five years in Cincinnati.

"The Buffalo fans are one reason I was so happy to come here,"
Spikes says. "Last year we played them in the last game of the
season. When I came on the field, I got this big cheer. There
were fans in Bengals jerseys. After the game I asked one of them,
'Aren't you a Bills fan?' He said, 'Today I'm a Spikes fan.' I
mean these fans knew I was going to be a free agent, and it was
their way of telling me they wanted me here."

A gifted pass defender from his weakside spot, instinctive and
explosive filling the hole on running plays, Spikes, teamed with
Posey and London Fletcher, gives Buffalo one of the best
linebacking corps in football. Something had to be done about the
defensive line, though, so the Bills drafted Chris Kelsay, an
outside rusher, in the second round, and made their third big
free-agent move by picking up Sam Adams, the gigantic tackle.

This is where the plan might break down. Adams, who has been
hailed as some sort of savior for the Bills, gradually wore out
his welcome after a six-year run in Seattle, got his game in
order and put together two Pro Bowl seasons with Baltimore, and
then spent a nonproductive 2002 season with the Raiders, who cut
him. He's on the downside of a basically underachieving career.
"Not here, he won't be," Williams says. "Have you ever heard of a
coach we have named Tim Krumrie?"

Krumrie is one of five new coaches the Bills hired this season.
Two of them, Dick LeBeau (assistant to the head coach) and Les
Steckel (running backs), have been head coaches in the NFL,
giving Buffalo three former top men among their assistants.
(Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is the third.) Krumrie, the
defensive line coach, is the most colorful member of the staff: a
former collegiate wrestler, 12 years as a Bengals nosetackle, a
booming voice that can be heard all over the practice field, a
fitness maniac at 43 and good for three full workouts every day
at camp. "I need them to clear my head from the meetings," he
says.

In February, Williams came up with the idea of Chemistry Day, in
which each position coach would take his guys out on some
getting-to-know-you project. "They took 'em out to play pool, to
go bowling," Krumrie says. "I took my 10 linemen into the shed.
One-on-one against me, bull in the ring. I took 'em on one at a
time, roughed 'em up, put it to 'em a little bit. That was my way
of them getting to know me.

"Big Sam? Oh, he'll work," Krumrie says. "We'll see to that."

"I'm in awe of the staff I've got to work with now," Williams
says. "I'm not worried about my contract. If you work hard, those
things have a way of taking care of themselves." --Paul Zimmerman

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER TOP BILLING With Fletcher anchoring the middle, Buffalo's defense will be led by its linebackers, one of the NFL's premier trios. COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS HENRY COLOR PHOTO

UNDER THE GUN

Last season Josh Reed was the third wideout in Drew Bledsoe's
vertical passing game, working mostly from the slot. Now he's the
No. 2 guy, replacing Peerless Price, who took his 94 catches to
Atlanta. How smoothly Reed adapts to being an every-down player
is a key to the Bills' success through the air. "All I can do is
keep working hard," he says.

ENEMY LINES
An opposing scout's view

"Drafting [running back] Willis McGahee in the first round, a guy
who won't be ready to play for another year, was an arrogant
pick--the kind you see from a defending Super Bowl champ that's
building its depth for the future. I don't know what the Bills
have in mind, and I don't see how Gregg Williams can be too happy
about it.... Last year their offense scared you two ways: Drew
Bledsoe going deep and Travis Henry running the draw. They're
still geared for the deep ball, but they've changed their offense
and gotten rid of guys--fullback Larry Centers and tight end Jay
Riemersma--who didn't fit Kevin Gilbride's system. I think
getting rid of Centers, a true third-down back, will hurt
them.... I keep hearing how great their offensive line is, but I
don't see it. Ruben Brown holds as much as any player in the
league. Mike Williams, their first-round draft pick last year,
didn't show great progress. Jonas Jennings is good, and Trey
Teague is O.K., though he's a little too tall for the
position.... The Bills will be competitive in the division
because they'll play hard for Williams and because the AFC East
has no clear stickout team. Anyone can win it, anyone can finish
last."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 7 NEW ENGLAND
14 at Jacksonville
21 at Miami
28 PHILADELPHIA

Oct. 5 CINCINNATI
12 at N.Y. Jets
19 WASHINGTON
26 at Kansas City

Nov. 2 Open date
9 at Dallas
16 HOUSTON
23 INDIANAPOLIS
30 at N.Y. Giants

Dec. 7 N.Y. JETS
14 at Tennessee
21 MIAMI
27 at New England (Sat.)

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 17
Opponents' 2002 winning percentage: .504
Games against playoff teams: 6

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002 statistics

2002 RECORD: 8-8
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total):
OFFENSE 24/5/11
DEFENSE 29/6/15

COACH: Gregg Williams; third season with Buffalo (11-21 in NFL)

TRAVIS HENRY

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
RB 16 325 1,438 4.4

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
43 309 7.2 14

DREW BLEDSOE

POS. PVR ATT. COMP. %
QB 19 610 375 61.5

YARDS TDs INT. RATING
4,359 24 15 86.0

PHILLIP CROSBY

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
FB 383 0 0 --

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
4 33 8.3 0

ERIC MOULDS

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 24 100 1,292 10

DAVE MOORE [1]

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
TE 198 16 141 2

JONAS JENNINGS

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LT 6'3" 320 lbs. 15 15

RUBEN BROWN

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LG 6'3" 304 lbs. 16 16

TREY TEAGUE

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
C 6'5" 292 lbs. 16 16

MIKE PUCILLO

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RG 6'4" 316 lbs. 0 0

MIKE WILLIAMS

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RT 6'6" 370 lbs. 14 14

JOSH REED

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 87 37 509 2

DEFENSE

RE AARON SCHOBEL 52 tackles 8 1/2 sacks
RT PAT WILLIAMS 84 tackles 1/2 sack
LT SAM ADAMS[1] 22 tackles 2 sacks
LE RYAN DENNEY 9 tackles 0 sacks
OLB JEFF POSEY[1] 60 tackles 8 sacks
MLB LONDON FLETCHER 149 tackles 3 sacks
OLB TAKEO SPIKES[1] 113 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
CB NATE CLEMENTS 64 tackles 6 int.
SS COY WIRE 92 tackles 3 sacks
FS PIERSON PRIOLEAU 86 tackles 0 int.
CB ANTOINE WINFIELD 56 tackles 0 int.

SPECIAL TEAMS PVR

K RIAN LINDELL[1] 222 38/38 XPS 23/29 FGS 107 PTS.
PR BOBBY SHAW[1] 208 25 RET. 12.4 AVG. 1 TD
KR BOBBY SHAW[1] 208 3 RET. 17.7 AVG. 0 TDS
P BRIAN MOORMAN 66 PUNTS 43.1 AVG.

[1] New acquisition
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 89)

"Drafting Willis McGahee was an arrogant pick. I don't know what
the Bills have in mind."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)