Offensive tackle Jonathan Scott will not feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of his task when he starts his first game for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Scott has started in the NFL before -- six times with the Detroit Lions. He also has the experience of playing in one of the biggest, greatest games in college football history. Scott was the starting left tackle for the University of Texas in its 41-38 national title-game triumph over Southern California in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
"You don't want to be a deer looking in the front of the headlights," Scott said after the Bills' practice Wednesday. "Being at Texas and playing with Detroit, it's the NFL scene. I've played against Pro Bowlers. All I have to do is concentrate on what I do best and go out there and play."
The Bills are taking the calculated gamble that Scott will be both poised and capable when they meet the New Orleans Saints at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Scott steps into the Bills' starting lineup due to the season-ending knee injury suffered by right tackle Brad Butler on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
With Scott on the field, the Bills' line might be the youngest group in modern NFL history. In Week One, the Bills became the first non-expansion team since the 1981 Redskins to start three offensive linemen who never had taken an NFL snap.
Now the Bills' front five has a combined 41 NFL starts. The least experienced NFL line to open a season in the past decade was the 2002 New York Giants, whose unit had 54 combined starts. By comparison, the current New York Jets' offensive line has 490 combined starts. The Saints' line has 154 combined starts.
The Bills say they have faith in Scott.
"He's a good athlete for the size and he's a big man, so I do believe he can do the job," coach Dick Jauron said. "I do believe that. Now he's got to go out and do it."
"He's talented," offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. "He came in late last year, kinda felt his way through the system. He started off slow in camp but really showed great improvement. And by the end of camp, we felt he really had come a long way. I'm expecting him to come in and not miss a beat."
At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, Scott has ideal size.
He started his last 43 games at Texas and was regarded as a pretty good, finesse, pass-blocking prospect entering the 2006 draft. Detroit took him in the fifth round.
Scott's career got off to a decent start with the Lions. He started four games as a rookie and two in his second season before going on injured reserve with a hamstring problem.
But Scott didn't make the cut entering last season. He admits he did not have a good attitude in Detroit.
"There was a lot of dissidence between me and the coaches," he said. "I think it affected my attitude. It was rather negative. Here it's definitely positive. I'm proud to be here in Buffalo. They've helped me become a better player. It was kind of a rift between me and the coaching staff [in Detroit]. I put that on my shoulders."
Scott sat out almost the entire 2008 season, then was signed by the Bills for the last two games. He spent all offseason in Buffalo working with the coaches. It was a bit of a surprise that he beat out Kirk Chambers for the No. 3 tackle job to open the season. (Chambers was added to the roster several days later.)
Scott is smart. He graduated from Texas and was on the athletic department's honor roll six semesters in college.
Asked the biggest improvement he has made since joining the Bills, he said: "Understanding the game. I definitely want to credit [offensive line coaches] Coach [Ray] Brown and Coach [Sean] Kugler for taking the time out to explain the dynamics of what's going on, on the field."
Can Scott prove he's fluid enough at bending at the knees, as opposed to the waist, to be a starter in the NFL? The Bills are going to find out. Scott says he has gotten much stronger in the run game since college.
"I've definitely developed better in the run game," he said. "I understand the dynamics of certain techniques; low pad level, getting footwork in unison. The coaches here have taken time to coach me up on that."
Kids on the blocks
The Bills' starting offensive line and the number of NFL career starts for each player: