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WOLFORD READY TO MEET CHALLENGE OF GIANTS' LT

Will Wolford, the Bills left offensive tackle, will get a lot of attention during Saturday's game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.

That's because he will be the Buffalo blocker who most often will confront Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

Wolford knows it's a challenge, but one he doesn't seem awed by, even it is the biggest personal challenge of his five NFL seasons.

"Yeah, I guess it is because it's this week," Wolford said. "I had some tough ones when I was younger."

Before Taylor exploded with 2 1/2 sacks, nine tackles and a forced fumble in last Sunday's victory over the Minnesota Vikings, there were whispers that he had slowed down. After all, the leading sacker in NFL history -- or at least since somebody started keeping track -- had only 1 1/2 sacks in nine previous games.

Wolford isn't buying that.

"The film I've seen on him, he looks pretty good to me," Wolford said. "It's not like he's overrated. The guy is every bit as good as people say he is. He's a guy I never played before and he is an exceptional player.

"He combines a lot of things. He's as good as anybody as far as speed and quickness on the pass rush. He's the kind of guy who's not going to let up either."

Maybe he's never faced Taylor, but Wolford feels he has held his own in the past with some pretty good imitators. New England's Andre Tippett for
one. New Orleans' Pat Swilling for another.

"Before Andre Tippett had all his injuries, the Andre Tippett of three years ago and LT compared very favorably. Pat Swilling's pretty good."

Like Tippett and Swilling, Wolford considers Taylor more a linebacker than a pass-rushing end such as Minnesota's Chris Doleman or San Francisco's Charles Haley.

"A lot of times Lawrence Taylor plays linebacker as well as pass rusher," Wolford points out. "He'll drop in coverage and play the linebacker position. It's not like it's a four-linemen set where he rushes the passer no matter what."

Of course, Taylor won't be entirely Wolford's responsibility. At times, Taylor lines up inside or on the opposite end.

"They try to get him on the side where there's no tight end so he has enough room to rush, and sometimes they hope to get him matched up with a running back when they blitz."

Most running backs, of course, are overmatched trying to pass-block Taylor when he has a full head of steam.

The Bills will give Wolford some help. They also will vary their protection as a natural course.

"We'll use different types of pass protection," coach Marv Levy said. "There are certain pass patterns that you use that require certain types of protection. It's not always the same player blocking the same pass rusher."

To counter Taylor's pass rush, the Bills can slide the pass blocking to his side, they can keep a tight end in or use a wing back to LT's side. They can also have another blocker, a back or an uncovered lineman, backstop Wolford or whoever is assigned to block Taylor on a given play.

They also can keep a back in but let him check out when he recognizes that it is not a blitz situation.

Generally, the Bills have protected quarterback Jim Kelly well all season.

Buffalo has given up only 21 sacks in 13 games. Only Miami (12), San Diego (16), Kansas City and New Orleans (19) have allowed fewer. Surprisingly the Giants have only 26 sacks compared to the Bills' 39. But they do have Taylor, who has 122 1/2 career sacks -- 8 1/2 this season. He has reached double figures the last six seasons, including 20 1/2 in 1986, when the Giants won the Super Bowl.

Last week, Taylor showed that he can break out at any time, especially with Carl Banks, New York's other stellar outside linebacker, back in action on the other side. Banks' return last week after missing six games with a dislocated wrist allowed Taylor the freedom that he didn't have in recent games.

Generally, offensive linemen don't get noticed by the casual football observer. The exceptions are when a tackle has to go head-to-head against a pass rusher like Lawrence Taylor or Bruce Smith.

It's the kind of notice nobody needs.
Reserve cornerback David Pool (knee) practiced with the Bills Thursday but starting left corner Kirby Jackson (hamstring) did not. Both remain questionable for Saturday's game against the New York Giants, Levy said.

Levy said that inside linebacker Shane Conlan (knee) has been taken off the injury report. He had been listed as probable.

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