Inside The Bills

What having K Gay on prac. squad does for Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on September 5, 2016 – 7:00 am

With K Jordan Gay signed to the Bills practice squad, Buffalo affords themselves options.

With the kickoff specialist on the roster the last two seasons the Bills have finished in the top three in kickoff coverage each of the last two years. Their opponents average drive start has been one of the poorer for their opponents in the league as well. This season they’ve chosen to have Dan Carpenter handle kickoffs.

With the new rule putting touchbacks at the 25, there will undoubtedly be a different approach. Relying on hang time on kicks to somewhere between the five-yard line and the goal line to allow the coverage team to run under it and make plays is one approach among many based on opponent, field conditions, weather and caliber of returner.

Should their new approach to covering kicks not prove as effective as that of the last two seasons, the Bills can still turn to Jordan Gay and resume their previous approach and activate him off the practice squad.

Keeping him there affords them the luxury of keeping him in the fold and up to date on their special teams plans and changes through the season without the specialist costing them a roster spot right now.


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A solid start for special teams

Posted by Chris Brown on September 14, 2015 – 10:37 am

Often lost in Buffalo victories is the performance by the Bills’ special teams units. On Sunday Danny Crossman’s group was on point.

Colton Schmidt had five punts with a solid gross average of just over 50 with an impressive net punting average of 46.2 and a long of 63. His early punts in the game were critical to the field position battle with Indianapolis. The Colts’ first four drive starts were their own 20, own nine, own eight and own four-yard lines. The result of those drives? Punt, punt, INT, punt.

Indianapolis’ average drive start for the game was their own 19-yard line, while Buffalo’s was their own 35. That stat belongs to the Bills special teams unit.

Randell Johnson’s fumble recovery off the muffed punt return by Phillip Dorsett helped the Bills seal the game as it led to an insurance field goal midway through the fourth quarter.

On punt returns for the day Indianapolis had a total gain of one yard.

Dan Carpenter was perfect on field goals and extra points with a pair of 40-plus yarders and all three extra points.

Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay had three touchbacks on six kickoffs with all three going through the back of the end zone. On Gay’s shortest kick, his coverage picked him up. His kick that went just a yard deep in the Colts end zone to start the second quarter was brought out just five yards to the Colts’ four-yard line when Chris Hogan dropped him.

And on a day when Buffalo was flagged for 11 penalties for more than 100 yards, the Bills’ special teams units were responsible for just one.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Rex on carrying a KO specialist

Posted by Chris Brown on September 11, 2015 – 3:40 pm

The Bills are a team that has a kickoff specialist in Jordan Gay, who is beginning his second season with the team. They believe there is value in having one so long as he’s very effective. 

Head coach Rex Ryan was asked about it and he’s on board with carrying one so long as he proves himself in the regular season. 

“That’s something that you don’t really…I think we’re the only team in the league with one but he better be great at it,” said Ryan. “So when he’s…I don’t know what his numbers, but they’re as high up as anybody’s in the league. Haven’t made my mind up if we’re gonna go in with the extra kickoff guy or not, but certainly have him on a team for those purposes.”

Gay finished ninth in the league in touchback percentage. His numbers would’ve been higher had there not been some game plans where he was specifically asked to hang kicks up in the air and short of the goal line. 

Indianapolis has a kickoff specialist. He just also happens to be the team’s punter in Pat McAfee. 


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Rex on keeping a kickoff specialist

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2015 – 4:34 pm

More and more NFL clubs are making sure they have a kicker who can put the ball through the back of the end zone on kickoffs, be it their place kicker or a kickoff specialist. Last season Buffalo carried Dan Carpenter for field goals and Jordan Gay for kickoffs. In the eyes of special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, Gay’s statistics from the 2014 season make him worthy of a roster spot. So where does head coach Rex Ryan come down on carrying a kickoff specialist?

Ryan gave indication that he’s leaning in the same direction as Crossman, provided the consistency of the kickoff specialist is there.

“Well you prefer not to, unless, you better have a really, really special guy,” said Ryan. “(Gay is) pretty good. He kicks almost a five second hang time on kickoffs and he launches them. So I think his percentage is probably higher than anybody’s in the league on touchbacks in the same type of situations. Some guy can kick it off in Colorado, I don’t know what their deal is, but if our guy did it, he’d kick it out of the stadium probably. So he’s very talented to say the least. But yeah, you have to be special if you’re going to keep somebody like that.”


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Posted in 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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Posted in Inside the Bills

Crossman: Jordan Gay has proven himself

Posted by Chris Brown on July 7, 2015 – 11:46 am

A good number of NFL observers still think it’s a luxury position, but more and more teams are putting stock in having a kickoff specialist to ensure touchbacks. Buffalo was one of the teams that carried a kickoff specialist last season in Jordan Gay. With a coaching change this offseason some are wondering if Gay is still held in high standing.

All Gay did last season was help improve Buffalo’s kickoff coverage from 17th in 2013 to 3rd in 2014. His touchback percentage (60.5%) was good for ninth in the league, and that doesn’t take into account some of the return men Buffalo faced last season who had free license to bring it out no matter how deep the kick was in the end zone (e.g. Percy Harvin – twice, Cordarelle Patterson).

With Rex Ryan the new head coach, there had been speculation as to where Ryan stood on the importance of having a reliable kickoff specialist. Buffalo’s contract extension for Gay this offseason was one indication that nothing has changed, and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman provided even more clarity as to how much the Bills value Gay’s contributions.

In a forthcoming one-on-one interview with Buffalobills.com, Crossman stated unequivocally that Gay proved his worth last season as deserving of a spot on Buffalo’s deep and talented roster.

“Without question,” said Crossman. “The year that Jordan had… and we think he’s going to be even better. It’s not as much of a luxury if you’re getting a super highly-productive player. I don’t care what it is. You may have a guy on your roster that only plays 15 plays a game, but in those 15 plays a game he gets a sack. Well that value is there. Everyone looks at each position differently. I think Jordan’s value – he showed what he was worth in terms of the depth of the kicks and hang time of the kicks he put us in great position to make a lot of plays.”

 


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Jordan Gay a big deal in his small hometown

Posted by Chris Brown on June 23, 2015 – 10:23 am

Clay Jackson/cjackson@amnews.com Seventh-grader Trey Dawson takes a photo of him and Jordan Gay Tuesday at Bate Middle School.

Clay Jackson/cjackson@amnews.com
Seventh-grader Trey Dawson takes a photo of him and Jordan Gay Tuesday at Bate Middle School.

On Buffalobills.com we profiled how Bills kickoff specialist Jordan Gay helped some special ed math students learn how to graph as they used his kickoff statistics from the 2014 season. The students, who attend the same middle school that Gay went through in his hometown of Danville, Kentucky, also got a chance to meet Gay at the end of the season when he came in for a visit. Gay thought he was just meeting the one class, but it turned out to be much more than that.

Clay Jackson/cjackson@amnews.com Jordan Gay checks out a graph that the students created that charted the length of his kicks Tuesday at Bate Middle School.

Photo credit: Clay Jackson – Advocate Messenger

“I went there thinking it would just be that class, but it turned out to be the whole middle school,” said Gay. “I went to each classroom.”

Gay was received like a rock star at Bate middle school back in January. The special ed teacher Robin Moler, made a giant graph of Gay’s kickoff stats from ceiling to floor in the hallway outside her classroom near the gymnasium. Gay talked to the students out in the hall about his week to week performance.

Moler, the middle school teacher who came up with the idea to use Gay’s kickoff stats already has plans for next year.

“So we used his kicking to help teach the kids how to graph,” she said. “Next year what I’d like to do is do comparative graphs, so I’ll take last year’s statistics and his graphing and compare them to how he does this season. It’ll be a great little ongoing thing.”


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Crossman on having a kickoff specialist

Posted by Chris Brown on January 29, 2015 – 11:10 am

Bills special teams coordinator Danny Crossman had to break in a rookie punter and a kickoff specialist in 2014. On the whole both Colton Schmidt and Jordan Gay performed well for Buffalo. Whether Buffalo’s new head coach Rex Ryan feels a kickoff specialist is necessary is something that will likely be decided in the coming months.

In an appearance on the John Murphy Show this week, Crossman sounded like he wants to continue developing both young kickers on Buffalo’s roster, but he knows he doesn’t have the final say.

“We haven’t gotten that far yet in the evaluation stage,” said Crossman of keeping a kickoff specialist. “I’m a firm believer if a guy is outstanding at what they do they’ll find work. We were happy with both of those guys and what they were able to do for us. Jordan was a big help in an area where we were lacking a little bit in terms of what he was able to do on kickoffs. Number one touchbacks, but even the returns that did come out against us the drive starts average on the returns was so much better than the touchbacks because of the distance and the hang time and the coverage guys that we added and made it a strength for our special teams.

“There’s a lot of upside with (punter) Colton Schmidt too after he came in right at the start of the season this past year and performed well.”


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Where Bills kickers finished well

Posted by Chris Brown on January 8, 2015 – 9:05 am

As we covered in a feature story appearing on Buffalobills.com today (Thursday) Buffalo’s special teams made major improvements from 2013 to 2014. Though they don’t get much exposure or credit here’s a look at where the Bills young kickers and veteran Dan Carpenter excelled.

Punter Colton Schmidt
5th in punts (86)
7th in punts downed inside the 20 (31)
10th in downed punts
15th in fair catches (20)

Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay
2nd in maximum hang time (4.87 seconds)
4th in average drive start allowed (20.1 yard line)
8th in touchbacks (49)
9th in percentage of kickoffs returned (37.3%)

Kicker Dan Carpenter
2nd in most makes overall (34)
2nd in most makes from 50-yards plus (6-8; 75%)
4th in FG/XP rating (5.7) (courtesy of ProFootballFocus)


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 11-7

Posted by Chris Brown on November 7, 2014 – 5:12 pm

Alright Bills fans, giant game this week against the Chiefs. Big AFC playoff implications. Got to get a win at home. For now on to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hello Chris,

Thank you for keeping us Bills fans up to date with all the great insider news! My question is very simple. With such a stout defensive line and very talented linebackers, and a talented secondary why is it in your opinion the bills give up so many pass yards?

Jeremiah T.

CB: What the Bills have surrendered in pass defense is somewhat understandable. For the most part the Bills have been a stout run defense all season long. This often forces an opponent to become one-dimensional, like the Jets offense was a couple of weeks ago.

As a result New York dropped back to pass a lot. Tom Brady was a bit of a different story. He got into such a rhythm passing that the Patriots chose to go with a pass heavy approach and it worked for them. The New England game however, has been the exception rather than the rule.

Buffalo is a very respectable 13th in the league against the pass. To be able to couple that with the eighth-ranked run defense is pretty good.

Often times in the league some of the top run defenses in football don’t have a pass defense ranking nearly as high. It’s because their run defense is so effective it forces opponents to pass to gain yards and score points, usually to try to climb back into the game.

When teams with stout run defenses have a respectable lead in games, they’ll often give up pass yards in exchange for killing time on the game clock. To see Buffalo in the top half of the league against the run and the pass is pretty impressive.

 

2 – Chris,

After Chris Hogan’s catch at the goal line against the Vikings, do you think that coach Marrone is gonna use him more every week???

Thanks,

Chris from NY


CB:
I think things are certainly trending in that direction. He has a good rapport with Kyle Orton and Orton trusts him to execute his route assignments and be in the right place at the right time. Hogan is one of the receivers who participates in Orton’s Tuesday throwing sessions on their off day. So that on field chemistry can only grow and get stronger.

Hogan does all the right things to make himself a better contributor in Buffalo’s offense, so yes I do think he’ll see more playing time as the year wears on.

 

3 – Chris:

Thanks for your coverage, research and opinions.

I ask for your opinion on a few things:
A)  Will CJ Spiller opt out of his final year or elect to rebound next year to improve his potential on the free agency market.

B) Do you think the Bills want him back or are they ready to move on?

C) Will Mike Williams get out of the Head Coach’s Dog House or is he done and will not dressed once the receivers are all healthy?

D) Will the Bills continue to carry a Kickoff Specialist since injuries have impacted the roster and Guy’s touchbacks have seemed to decline?


CB:
Here are my answers in letter order.

A – I think he will make himself a free agent to be.

B – I think the Bills will make an effort to re-sign Spiller

C – Mike Williams to his credit is putting in extra work on special teams during the practice week to get on the field that way. It’s hard to really get to the bottom of what’s keeping him off the field, but seeing a player like Chris Hogan emerge, who does all the right things and puts in the extra work and is reliable might be an indicator.

D – Jordan Gay has been a solid kickoff specialist this season. The only reason is touchback percentage dropped recently (it was at almost 75%) was because the Bills faced a couple of teams who give the green light to their returners even when the ball is kicked nine yards deep (Minnesota, NY Jets).

Gay’s benefit to the team is two-fold. First, it saves Carpenter’s leg through the course of the season. It also takes hits off the bodies of the kick coverage men on his unit when he gets touchbacks because they don’t have to go make a play. It’s hard to know where Gay’s role will go in the future, but he’s performed pretty well this season in my opinion.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Last year I wrote you and was kinda hard on you, and I appreciate you writing back, I live in Florida, grew up in WNY. Love the Bills, probably too much,  I was at the New England game, I talked to a lot of folks, CJ Spiller is our question, listen to all of the interviews, please could you pass on to him, he always says, always says he will only take what they give him, nobody will give him anything, take more than what they give him, stay inbounds, put your head down and get another yard. It’s time for this team to get some attitude, the fans are mad, we are furious, we have a good team and it is being wasted.

Chris am I out of line, or do you see players that are not working? I really think this team is only as good as our weakest link. Spiller and Gilmore are terrible, they play with no heart, please pass it on , we do not like watching Spiller running out of bounds, its depressing, thanks for listening, go Bills,

Doug Collins

CB: Don’t worry about the harsh words the last time. I know more often than not it comes from the passion you fans have for your team. No offense taken. As for C.J. and Gilmore however, I don’t think you could be more wrong about them not having heart.

They’re two of the harder working players on the team. Their commitment in the offseason is exemplary and both are often putting in extra time after practice.

You’re not alone in being frustrated that C.J. Spiller isn’t more productive in Buffalo’s offense. Obviously now he’s focused on just getting healthy after his shoulder injury, but Spiller wants to succeed more than anybody.

One thing that I’ve talked to Mark Kelso about in the past is how Spiller might benefit from lining up in the backfield deeper. Spiller is so fast that he gets to the line of scrimmage where the hole should be before it actually opens up for him. Arriving so early the hole is not established and he has to find another option, and often chooses to bounce it outside.

Kelso has explained to me, and it makes sense, that if he lines up deeper in the backfield he’ll arrive at the line of scrimmage in better time with the blocks being executed and the hole will be there for him to exploit.

The Kansas City Chiefs do this with Jamaal Charles. Another speedy back, Charles lines up deeper in the backfield and arrives at the line in proper timing with the linemen. I don’t know that it’s a cure all, but if he’s able to come off I-R before the season is over or let’s hope for the postseason I’d like to see if that could fix things.

As for Stephon Gilmore I think he’s played better as the season has gone on. He’s not giving up big plays and he’s been physical with some of the bigger, stronger receivers this season.

 

5 – Chris,
First off, you do a great job keeping us rabid Bills fans informed and do it in a professional manner. Thanks!
I’m sure you are probably sick of hearing about fans complaining of poor officiating.In the NHL, between the intermissions,the officials watch video and are in contact with the league about the calls they made & missed. They make a concerted effort to get better so they make less mistakes during the game-sort of like a coaching staff making adjustments. Could you please let us fans know if the NFL does this and,if not,WHY?
Players,if they make too many mistakes, get cut. Coaches lose too many games,get fired. There is accountability. Doesn’t seem to be the case with NFL officials.

Tom Dinder

CB: To my knowledge NFL officials do not review their calls from the first half at halftime. First and foremost halftime is rather brief (about 10-12 minutes for officials). Officials are schooled up in the offseason and are prepped for the season by attending NFL training camps to get ready for the preseason and regular season.

I do know that coaches will ask officials to keep an eye on certain things as the game unfolds, but beyond that there isn’t much else that’s done proactively by NFL officials as I understand it.

Thanks for the kind words.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills cover unit not fooled on planned throwback

Posted by Chris Brown on October 26, 2014 – 9:31 pm

There were reports by the local daily papers in New York/New Jersey that the Jets may have something up their sleeve this week on special teams in the return game. On Sunday the Bills were ready.

In the third quarter after a 36-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter put the Bills up by 10 (27-17) the Jets had a trick play called on the ensuing kickoff return. Bills kickoff specialist Jordan Gay kicked the ball nine yards deep in the end zone. As he kicked off the Jets had Percy Harvin in the right side of the end zone to return and there was another Jets player lying face down in the green part of the end zone hoping to go undetected by Buffalo’s cover unit. That player was T.J. Graham.

Gay’s kick went to Harvin nine yards deep in the end zone as he came out with the ball to the goal line, Graham jumped to his feet to receive a called lateral pass. The problem was the Bills kick coverage team had two players in front of Graham convincing Harvin that the lateral pass was not there to be attempted. Instead he tucked it and got what he could.

“We were trying to do a throwback,” said Harvin. “The defense sniffed it out pretty well. I saw the defense closing in on him, so I decided to tuck the ball, and make the best out of the play.”

Harvin was tackled at the Jets’ three-yard line by Ron Brooks. The Jets went three-and-out on offense and punted.


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New elements of kicking game fare well

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2014 – 9:22 pm

Heading into Sunday’s season opener, the Bills had a new kickoff specialist and a new punter. Coming out of their overtime victory special teams coordinator Danny Crossman has to be pretty pleased with how they performed.

Colton Schmidt in his first ever appearance for the Bills had five punts in the game. Four of them he dropped inside the 20-yard line effectively flipping the field for most of the contest. His net average was an outstanding 43.2, just a tenth of a yard above his preseason average when he was still with the 49ers.

Buffalo’s coverage unit was good too, but two of Schmidt’s punts were fair catches. In total the Bears had minus-one yard on two punt returns Sunday.

Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay had six kickoffs, five of which went for touchbacks.

“I didn’t see the stats, but we talked about rookie punter versus rookie punter (in this game) and we talked about from the special teams challenge was going to be the field position battle,” said head coach Doug Marrone. “Early on (Schmidt) had the not so good one out of the way early and then he hit some really good punts. We let them out the one time on the pass interference call when we had them down there on the six. On our kickoffs the one time they brought it back we stopped them. Our specialists did a nice job.”

Marcus Easley had a pair of tackles on coverage teams and Dan Carpenter was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals including a 50-yarder.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why Marrone still looking for kickoff guy

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 12:18 am

With the preseason coming to a close head coach Doug Marrone is still trying to nail down a kickoff specialist for his squad. They claimed P/K Jordan Gay off waivers this week and he had a kickoff to start the second half. It went to the goal line and he had a punt. Marrone sees a big advantage in having a kickoff specialist.

“Last year we led the league in kickoff returns against us,” said Marrone. “I just think you’re playing with fire with that. I think you can have a big advantage for a couple of reasons. One, you can take that phase out of the game meaning that your 30-something spots that you use for special teams two coverage teams and kickoff return and punt. If you’re a team that can kick it out of the end zone 90 percent of the time you’re taking out a lot of shots (on your guys) and you’re saving a lot of reps and you’re taking a lot of opportunities away from the other team.”


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