The Bills have had to fill some holes created by some serious injuries early in the 2009 campaign. Paul Posluszny has been replaced by Marcus Buggs at middle linebacker. Derek Schouman will be replaced by Derek Fine this week at tight end. And right tackle Brad Butler, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Sunday, will be replaced by third-year tackle Jonathan Scott.
Scott (6'6" 318) doesn't have the experience that Butler had as a starter, with just six starts under his belt, the last of which came in 2007 as a member of the Detroit Lions. But the Texas product made strides with his game this offseason that earned him Buffalo's swing tackle job.
"Through the offseason and training camp we thought he really worked hard and learned our stuff," said head coach Dick Jauron. "I thought he competed well. He's a good athlete for his size and he's a big man."
It's been almost two seasons since Scott has seen regular time. After appearing in 13 games as a rookie in 2006 while earning four starts, Scott was encouraged about where his career was headed. But the following season he made just seven appearances and only two starts in 2007 for the Lions before winding up on injured reserve. He was released the following summer at the close of Detroit's 2008 training camp.
"It was a time to re-evaluate myself. I definitely didn't get to the point where I doubted my ability to play football on this level," said Scott. "I just had to realize I had to become a better teammate and a better professional, on the field and off the field."
The atmosphere in Detroit proved difficult for Scott. It was hard to keep his proverbial chin up and nose to the grindstone. But being signed to Buffalo's practice squad in the fall of 2008 changed his outlook.
"With Detroit, I believe it was a situation where there was a lot of distance between me and the coaches," said Scott. "I think it affected my attitude. But coming to a different type of vibe and atmosphere here it definitely opened my eyes and let me know that everyone is not like where I was previously. I think that definitely helped (my game). I just kind of persevered through things and stayed professional."
Scott worked on sharpening his techniques while developing a greater feel for the mental aspects of the game.
"I definitely want to credit (assistant offensive line) coach (Ray) Brown and (offensive line) coach (Sean) Kugler for taking the time to explain the dynamics of what's going on out on the field," he said.
His improved play this offseason gave his offensive staff the confidence to make him their swing tackle when the final roster was assembled at the end of the preseason. And now they trust Scott will be able to deliver with Butler lost for the year.
"The thing about it is its 90 percent preparation," he said. "These coaches here have definitely done that. They've allowed me to get better as a player, understand the game better and they've definitely given me the tools to compete on Sunday."
"I do believe he can do the job," said Jauron. "Now he's got to go out and do it and prove it. This will be a tough team (this Sunday)."
The New Orleans Saints have some quality pass rushers in Will Smith and Charles Grant, whom Scott will be facing on Sunday. But Buffalo's new right tackle is undeterred feeling his game is ready for any caliber of talent that comes his way.
"Playing in Detroit it was still the NFL scene so I've played against Pro Bowlers," he said. "So all I have to do is concentrate on what I do best and just go out there and play."
Jauron felt Scott held his own when thrust into the lineup last week after Butler went down with a knee injury in the first half against Tampa Bay. And Scott believes getting exposed to the regular season setting last Sunday will only help him this weekend.
"I think it kind of helps in knowing the pace of how Trent (Edwards) likes to control the offense," said Scott. "Getting certain calls on the fly and getting a feel for how the defense is playing. Regardless of a person's individual talent he has to play the scheme. Once you figure out their scheme and how they play it, everything kind of falls into place."
Scott also has a good working familiarity with right guard Eric Wood. Wood got snaps with Scott through the course of the preseason as the rookie got extended playing time with the starting unit and the second string over the five preseason games.
"I got some work with him in the preseason and practice as well," said Wood of his new linemate. "We've got a little bit of work together, but Jonathan is a heck of a ball player and its fun working with him. I thought last Sunday went well."
"Even when we're not on the practice field we sit and just kind of go over calls all the time," said Scott. "It's not like, 'Oh what do we do?' It's a situation where we carry on and do what we do."
And that's what the right side of Buffalo's offensive line will have to accomplish from this point forward with Scott serving as the unit's right flank.
"Carry the torch," said Scott. "It's as simple as that. You have to carry the torch."