During the bye week Bryan Scott said his need at linebacker would only come in an emergency. Buffalo's defensive staff has apparently pulled the alarm. With starter Keith Ellison looking less and less likely to play after missing two days of practice, it appears that the favorite to start in his place Sunday is the veteran strong safety.
"He's a good football player and he's an experienced player," said head coach Dick Jauron. "We're just so beat up at that spot that it made sense to do it. So that's what we've done."
Scott is a well put together safety at 6'1" 219 pounds. He's just 10 pounds lighter than the player he's replacing in Ellison. Lined up with the starting unit at linebacker for almost two weeks, Scott is adjusting as quickly as he can.
"I'm plugged in and it's been a learning experience," he said. "I'm kind of learning on the fly. This is the first time in a while where I feel like a rookie again. There's been a whole bunch of studying and extra film work. I sat down last night and had hours of homework. But it's coming along."
Having spent a lot of time in the box as a strong safety, transitioning to linebacker might not seem to be that tall an order, but all of the run-pass keys are different for those two positions.
"The biggest difference is my initial read," said Scott. "Before my read might have been the tight end or a pulling tackle or guard, now it's guard, center, guard, fullback, tailback. The steps are different. Steps that I'm used to taking are now wrong. Different fits that I'm used to taking, now those are wrong. So whenever things happen I fall back on my instincts and my basic training, which is completely incorrect. But it's definitely coming along and I'm getting better at it."
Accurate split second decisions might be more critical this Sunday than any other game this season. Tennessee's Chris Johnson is considered the fastest running back in football. One false step or one wrong fit and it could mean six points for Tennessee.
"It's really tough because he's very, very fast and he's got really good balance," said Jauron. "Once he gets a step there just doesn't seem to be anybody on the field that can catch him so it'll be very difficult. An extremely fast, and talented running back."
Scott has been cramming as much information with respect to his alignments and assignments all week while also leaning on his linebacker teammates in the meeting rooms.
"I've been sitting next to Keith in meetings and I'm always in his ear," said Scott. "I'm asking him, 'Keith quiz me real quick.' Or during meetings I ask him to write down what he sees me doing wrong on the practice tape and I'll take his notes home and I'll rewrite his notes and I'll study it. Poz knows everything inside and out so when I have a question lining up I'll check with him to see if my alignment is right just for confirmation."
It's clear that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has a lot of faith in Scott as he also has him taking reps in the unit's nickel package at the linebacker position.
"The whole gamut is being thrown my way and it's not system overload, but it's pretty close," said Scott. "I'm just kind of taking it all in. I'm taking it home and processing it myself and trying to find crafty ways to remember everything."
Veteran linebacker Chris Draft, who will be starting opposite Scott on Sunday and was previously a teammate of his in Atlanta for two seasons, is confident Scott will make a successful transition.
"It's definitely a challenge, but there's a reason why he's there," said Draft. "He's been committed to understanding the defense since he's been here, not just from a safety perspective, but from the defense as a whole. To know what to do, he'll have that down. It's just a matter of getting a feel. He's an athlete and with a guy out there that can run like him he should have a good day."
"The biggest thing is once you know what to do you have to do what you know," said Scott. "I'm going to have to stick with the basics of what I've learned and I'll have to fall back on that. I can't go out there and start second guessing. I have to go with what I know and I'll be okay."