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Inside The Bills

Spec. teams area for improvement – punting

Posted by Chris Brown on July 9, 2015 – 3:03 pm

Buffalo’s special teams had a renaissance year last season finishing second overall in the well respected Dallas Morning News comprehensive rankings put together by Rick Gosselin. But there’s always room to improve and there’s one area in particular that coordinator Danny Crossman believes can make a jump this coming season.

Crossman has some short list items as any coach does from one season to the next, but near the top of that list is the punt game. That’s not to indicate that Colton Schmidt struggled last season. As a rookie he performed rather well as he got adjusted to the NFL game. But Crossman wants to see an improvement when it comes to net punting, which means reducing return yardage, improving hang time, forcing fair catches and avoiding touchbacks.

Part of what worked against Schmidt and the punt coverage unit last season was the majority of his kicks were on the opponent’s side of midfield, which negatively impacted gross punting average. That affects net punting average and provides a greater risk for touchbacks off a bounced ball.

“When you talk about punting the football early in the year most of our punts was what we consider plus-50 so we weren’t going to have the big gross and we were going to have an okay net as long as we weren’t getting touchbacks,” Crossman said. “We knew based on where we were we were going to have a high number of inside the 20s and inside the 10s and that’s sort of how the year played out.”

On 86 punts Schmidt had just six touchbacks with 31 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, which was tied for fourth-best in the NFL last season.

“As a coach you want to be better on everything,” said Crossman. “We need to punt the ball better and we still need to be better in coverage even though we were pretty good at it.”

As a side note, kickoff specialist Jordan Gay also doubles as a punter and will try to give Schmidt some competition in training camp this summer.


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