The Bills made a change at offensive coordinator under new head coach Rex Ryan and terminated the contract of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, but Ryan is going to keep special teams coordinator Danny Crossman in the fold for 2015.
The team made the announcement late Wednesday afternoon. Crossman’s special teams units made widespread improvements from 2013 to 2014, with key additions like Boobie Dixon and Corey Graham filling valuable veteran roles. Crossman also capably blended in a rookie punter and kickoff specialist to help improve the coverage units. Here’s a look at some categories where Buffalo’s special teams improved the most from 2013 to 2014.
SPECIAL TEAMS 2013 2014
Field position 26.8 – 25th 30.2 – 5th
Avg. drive start KO 20.7 – 27th 22.5 – 10th
Kick return avg. 20.4 – 29th 23.3 – 17th
Kickoffs – TB pct. 41.5% – 24th 60.5% – 9th
Opponent KO avg. start 22.7 – 23rd 20.7 – 5th
Punt return avg. 6.2 – 29th 9.6 – 12th
FG Pct. 91.7% – 10th 89.5% – 6th
Net punting avg. 36.6 – 30th 38.7 – 23rd
Punt coverage (opp. avg.) 10.6 – 25th 6.5 – 4th
Kick coverage (opp. avg.) 23.4 – 17th 20 – 3rd
FG Pct. Against 86.1% -17th 81.1% – 9th
Opp. field position 31.2 – 31st 26.9 – 11th
Tags: Danny Crossman, Jim Schwartz, Rex Ryan, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Bills not only have back-to-back winners for AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Dan Carpenter and C.J. Spiller, they’ve got a host of starters playing important roles on their special teams units under coordinator Danny Crossman. Head coach Doug Marrone said the impact of their core special teamers and starters from offense and defense on those units has been critical.
“There are about 30-something positions on special teams. You have four or five, sometimes you can have six, core players that can play a majority of those four. Then, all of the sudden, due to injuries you start having to watch out about those snap counts with everyone. We do have starters on most teams, at least one phase of it,” said Marrone.
“For Robert Woods to go down there and make that play, which was a great play, we pointed that out to the team. Brandon Spikes blocked for CJ Spiller. We pointed that out. Leodis coming from 50-something yards downfield to be in the mix for the blocked punt. I think that just goes to show the type of effort that our starters are giving on special teams, which I think is important,” Marrone said. “Corey Graham is playing all over the place. You can sit there and preach that as a coach, but when those players go out there and the rest of the team can see it on the field then that will make you better. We’ve been playing well on special teams right now and we need to keep going.”
The Bills currently rank second in the league in kick return average and fifth in the league in punt coverage.
Tags: Danny Crossman, Doug Marrone, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Bills punt coverage unit had a solid night as the three punts they sent at the Panthers resulted in no return yards for Carolina in the game.
Brian Moorman’s first punt was downed by Nigel Bradham at the Carolina 12-yard line and not returned. His second was fielded by Kenjon Barner, but Ron Brooks dropped him for no gain. Then in the second half Chris Hogan and Jacquies Smith teamed up to stop Barner again after a long punt by rookie Jake Dombrowski. Head coach Doug Marrone was pretty pleased with the effort.
“Our special teams have done a very good job of tackling,” said Marrone. “Obviously we had the missed play on the ball with Nickell, but I think special teams-wise Nickell had a nice play earlier that he made. T.J. Graham had a return. We don’t even have the first team returners out there, but we’re tackling well which is a good sign.”
Tags: Brian Moorman, Chris Hogan, Doug Marrone, Jacquies Smith, Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills
OTAs wrapping up today with only mandatory minicamp left before the break. Let’s get to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net.
1 - Chris,
With all the attention the Bills off-season moves garnished (and deservedly so), I feel the Bills special teams are getting overlooked. I was hoping that you would provide some insight on what you see the Bills doing with the gunners? I am really intrigued at the prospect of having Leodis McKelvin on one side and Ron Brooks on the other. McKelvin looked outstanding in the latter part of the year as a gunner and I read Brooks performed very well as a gunner in college. With that kind of speed and athleticism on the outside I would think the Bills would see a lot of fair catches on punts (even Moorman would have a hard time “out kicking his coverage”).
Displaced Buffalonian in Santa Barbara, Ca
CB: In the OTA setting players like McKelvin and Brooks have been focusing more on defense than anything else, though McKelvin has been in the rotation as a punt returner with C.J. Spiller and Justin Rogers.
Some of the gunners that I’ve seen line up to this point have been Kamar Aiken, Naaman Roosevelt, Ruvell Martin and even David Nelson. Now Roosevelt and Nelson are two players I don’t anticipate seeing out there come the season. They’re probably just being used as bodies for walk through type drills because none of them are running 40 yards down the field live in OTAs.
I could however, see Aiken and Martin as a part of the competition at gunner. I think your suggestion of Brooks is a good one, but we’ll have to see how he handles things when the pads go on and the play gets a lot more physical. But no question he can fly. Other candidates that I would put in the gunner category are David Clowney, Prince Miller and Isaiah Green.
2 – Chris,
Am I beating a dead horse wondering what Merriman’s role will be? Has he ever played in a 4-3 defense? My football knowledge only goes so far, (not very) but I don’t see him being able to play OLB in a 4-3. So It would seem their options are, play him at DE as part of a rotation, use him like Dallas used Charles Haley, or release him. I’m wondering about a forth option, playing him inside at MLB. What does his future look like to you?
CB: I think the Bills are hesitant to give Merriman a prominent role coming off of Achilles surgery. As such I anticipate that he’ll be a part of the team’s nickel pass rush package and other pass rushing personnel groupings. Basically I expect him to be a situational pass rusher to start the season and if he shows he can take on a bigger workload he might begin to factor in more on run downs. It’s truly and wait and see situation. And no, he’s not a middle linebacker.
3 – Chris,
Dorin Dickerson would be the perfect short yardage / red zone RB with his size and speed. I wonder if that could be in the works?
CB: Dickerson is going to be used as an H-back if he makes the squad. I think he’s done very well in these OTA practices to carve out a niche for himself in this offense. He’s at least given the offensive staff something to strongly consider as a new option in their offense as a ‘move’ tight end/H-back. At 227 pounds however, he’s not a short yardage guy.
Your best short yardage player on this roster is Fred Jackson, who can earn a yard just about whenever you need it.
4 - Hi Chris,
A lot of fans are worried about the #2 WR spot. We have several guys that can play over there. I think we missed on that spot this offseason as far as getting that big guy that is not covered even when he is covered, but I think we are still ok and can work on that in the coming years. I do like the drafting of Graham. I could see a bunch of guys playing there, but I think the main guys will probably end up being Easley, who looked great last preseason and Brad Smith who played really well during the season. My question is how do you feel about the #2 WR spot, and these guys going forward and also do you think Brad Smith would be willing to go to WR full time? Would the coaches like that or do they want him for wildcat plays only? Also do you think Jones will shift inside now to the slot to share time with Nelson now that Graham is here as well?
Thank you for your time
CB: Unfortunately for Brad Smith I don’t foresee a full time role for him anywhere. He could factor in at wide receiver, but not as a full time #2. I think his presence in a Wildcat type package at QB will be expanded.
The main candidates I see for the number 2 receiver job, removing primary slot receiver David Nelson from the equation are Donald Jones, Marcus Easley and Derek Hagan. I believe unless Easley grossly outperforms Jones and Hagan it will eventually be a two-player race. Jones being the incumbent from last year stands a good chance of remaining in that role.
I do believe long term that Easley offers the best physical skill set for what they want outside opposite Stevie Johnson, but he has to deliver on a consistent basis for that to happen.
The offensive staff wants to be able to move Jones around, particularly inside as the second slot receiver opposite Nelson in the four wide sets. So there will still be opportunities outside for guys like Easley and Hagan.
It’s certainly going to be one of the most intriguing position battles in camp.
5 - Hi Chris,
How many receivers do the Bills plan on keeping on the roster for the start of the regular season? Obviously, you have Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, T.J. Graham, Marcus Easley, Derek Hagan, and Ruvell Martin. Will another one be in the mix? As always, looking forward to your response.
Tony, Ormond Beach, FL
CB: I think six receivers are a lock for the roster knowing how much Buffalo makes use of the four wide sets. In your listing you omitted Donald Jones, who will make this team barring a complete collapse in training camp. There’s an outside chance that seven receivers are kept if the position numbers allow it, but I’m not anticipating that. I think they keep a couple on the practice squad in the event of injury and keep six.
Tags: Brad Smith, Dorin Dickerson, Fan Friday, Leodis McKelvin, Marcus Easley, Ron Brooks, Shawne Merriman, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills
Big preseason game test coming up Saturday night. Eager to see more progress from all three phases. As always questions can be sent to (AskChris@bills.nfl.net). Let’s get going with this week’s edition.
1 – Hey Chris it kind of seems from a fans prospective so far that the bills staff intends to keep Levi brown as the 3rd option, is that the case or still a little early to say?
Frank (Bills fan in dolphin country) Miami, FL
CB: First, my condolences for having to live amongst Dol-Fans (man that’s a lame term isn’t it?). With respect to the quarterback contingent I believe that Levi Brown will be carried on the 53-man roster. I think there is too much potential there to risk putting him on the practice squad.
Bills GM Buddy Nix in a recent interview on the Shredd and Ragan show (103.3 The Edge) up here in Buffalo confirmed that they’re only keeping three. My feeling is that Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick are likely the two QBs fighting for the one remaining spot. Brown will be the third QB, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be on the 53-man squad.
2 – Chris,
Since Jackson’s injury seems to be longer term than Lynch, if Lynch performs well do you think he may become the feature back again? He has looked great in TC I hear, and if he is back to his 2008 form he could be in for a good season. I know some coaches stick with what works and if he is getting it done why fix it if its not broke. Your thoughts??
CB: I think anything is possible with respect to the so called number one role in the offensive backfield. As Chan Gailey has said, he doesn’t care about hurting people’s feelings, he cares about scoring points. Yes, Lynch had a good camp prior to the injury, but so did Jackson. Jackson is still shooting to be back by the opener, and I don’t count that guy out on anything he puts his mind to.
Personally I think if Jackson does come back by Sept. 12 that he’ll be getting the lion’s share of the rushing work.
3 – Chris,
This is the first time I have ever wrote to you about the Bills, but I ( like many other Bills fans) am getting extremly frustrated with the organization and its decision making process. One question that has been bothering me is why wont the Bills trade Fred Jackson?
We have a crowded back field and some decision needs to be made. Jackson’s value is never going to be higher than it is right now! He’s almost 30, and the Bills got him for practically nothing, so their return on their investment would be amazing. I know he has had one season with over 1000 yards rushing, but Lynch has done it twice in 3 years. In my opinion he would have reached that mark last year if he wasn’t suspended. Lynch is a capable back that has been proven way before Jackson came along. I guess my point is…we could trade him to get more draft picks in the upcoming draft, since we are committed to turning this organization around through the draft. If need be trade Lynch as well to get more picks to solidify our lines! That’s where football games are won anyway. Please let me know your thoughts!
Elbert. Albany, NY
CB: Unfortunately you’re not the first person I’ve heard this line of logic from. While I completely respect the idea of dealing from a position of strength to fortify other areas of your team, the plan in 2010 is to lean very heavily on the running game. It’s shown great promise in the preseason and Chan Gailey has a history of success running the football.
Jackson can do everything well as evidenced by his season last year when he became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and accumulate 1,000 kick return yards in a season. He also LED THE LEAGUE in combined yards from scrimmage. More than Chris Johnson, more than Josh Cribbs, more than everybody. In fact it was the fourth highest combined yardage total in NFL HISTORY.
So if you want to get rid of that guy I think you’re nuts. I say keep all three in the fold and pound the rock in 2010.
4 – Chris, I’d be interested in knowing if you think any of these players will be on the 53 man roster opening day. Donovan Woods, John McCargo, Donald Jones, Ellis Lankster. Also, what is the status of Easley & Wang?
CB: I think Ed Wang is a lock despite his injury. Of the rest I believe Ellis Lankster has the best chance. Granted he didn’t have his best game against Indy in the preseason, but the fact is you can never have enough cornerbacks. If the Bills keep six corners, he’s the guy. Donovan Woods and Donald Jones are in the hunt. Marcus Easley’s season is over, he’s on I-R. As for John McCargo, he’s worked very hard to adjust to playing defensive end in a 3-4, but I think he’s caught in a numbers game at the position, and knowing the Bills are likely to keep just six defensive linemen, I think he could be on the outside looking in.
5 – Hi Chris,
After 2 pre-season games, the special teams performance has not been very good, particularly on kick/punt return coverage. The tackling has been poor and it has resulted in some decent return yards for the opposition. Do you think this is a reflection of the Bills trying out players who have not had experience playing special teams, a new scheme that the players are still learning under Bruce DeHaven or do you think this is a real cause for concern? Also, in practices, do you think special teams is getting enough reps?
CB: There’s no question that coverage on kicks and punts has been a bit suspect. I discussed this with head coach Chan Gailey in a one-on-one setting and here’s the answer straight from the head coach’s mouth.
“We have people in the wrong places,” said Gailey. “We’ve got to get people in the right places and staying disciplined in their lanes. Some of that is because guys haven’t done it since they were freshmen in college.
“Preseason is about teaching those guys how to play on special teams that haven’t played there before. And we’re looking at a lot of guys on special teams to find out if they can help us or not.
“So you really don’t have your starting special teams units on the field like you do on offense and defense early in the game because you don’t know how many punt returns or kickoffs you’re going to get so you have to get those guys out there early in the preseason games.”
I believe the new scheme and some turnover have been contributing factors as well, but I’m confident Bruce DeHaven will have things humming come the regular season.
Tags: Bruce DeHaven, Buddy Nix, Chan Gailey, Donald Jones, Donovan Woods, Ed Wang, Ellis Lankster, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson, John McCargo, Levi Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills
With an increased workload on offense tonight due to the absence of Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Spiller won’t be seeing any time on special teams.
Buffalobills.com has learned that Spiller, who returned a punt in the preseason opener, will only see time on offense as he’s expected to get about 20-24 plays.
Expected to see time on returns however are Leodis McKelvin and Roscoe Parrish. Both are expected to get a punt and kick return each, provided they occur in the game. Naaman Roosevelt is also expected to get some looks again on returns.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Leodis McKelvin, Naaman Roosevelt, Roscoe Parrish, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills
I’d be very surprised if the Chiefs even kick to Leodis McKelvin or Roscoe Parrish for that matter on returns.
Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards specifically called Buffalo’s return units “scary” this week.
I think it’ll be squib kicks all day on kickoffs and kicks out of bounds or into the end zone on punts.
Now the interesting thing that Bobby April did last week was he had Leodis and Fred Jackson back on kick return with Jackson as the fullback. And after the Browns were kicking short every time he brought Roscoe Parrish in as an up man to field the shorter kickoffs if there were any.
It’ll be interesting to see if there is any of that cat and mouse game with that today.
Tags: Bobby April, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills