Inside The Bills

Special teams edge tilts heavily toward Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on December 21, 2014 – 2:30 pm

More often than not the Bills have won the special teams battle in their games this season. On paper Sunday’s game might present the most lopsided matchup of special teams for Buffalo this year.

Oakland ranks last in the league in opponent average drive start at better than an opponent’s own 33-yard line. For their offense the situation is no better. Their average drive start on offense ranks ranks last in the league as well at less than their own 24-yard line.

Part of that has little to do with special teams. Oakland has the sixth-most giveaways this season with a total of 27. That combined with just 11 takeaways gives the Raiders the worst turnover differential in the NFL at minus-16. Bills head coach Doug Marrone addressed the Raiders’ special teams in his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment presented by Tim Horton’s on

“A lot of it is with the turnovers,” said Bills head coach Doug Marrone of Oakland’s field position issues. “That’s the first thing that you look at. The second part is the opportunities. They have 30 more punts than we have this year. When you give teams in the NFL that many opportunities someone is going to take advantage of it.”

And take advantage they have. Opponents are averaging almost 12 yards a return on Oakland punts making the Raiders the second-worst punt coverage unit in football. It explains why the Raiders have given up nine punt returns of 20 yards or more, which is the most in the NFL this season.

Raider opponents also have the highest collective kick return average in the league at a fat 31.9 average per return. A little more than 94 percent of the time Oakland opponents return a kickoff for more than 20 yards, more than 25 percent about the league average.

This despite the fact that the Raiders have the seventh-best touchback percentage in the league (62.2%) with veteran kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

Perhaps most surprising is the unit is coached by former Bills special teams coach Bobby April, who had some of the best special teams units in football during his time coaching in Buffalo (2004-2009).

Suffice to say that Buffalo return man Marcus Thigpen is likely to have his share of opportunities today.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

April to the Eagles

Posted by Chris Brown on January 14, 2010 – 3:46 pm

The Philadelphia Eagles were able to earn the services of Bills former special teams coordinator Bobby April.

The team reported it on their website, as April was hired Thursday afternoon.

April had drawn interest from the Steelers, 49ers and Redskins before landing with the Eagles. Philadelphia just fired special teams coach Ted Daisher after just a year on the job.

Posted in Inside the Bills

April meets with Singletary

Posted by Chris Brown on January 13, 2010 – 6:49 am

Bills former special teams coordinator Bobby April met with 49ers head coach Mike Singletary.

The 49ers head coach interviewed April for his vacant special teams coaching position. The Niners struggled in a few areas of special teams particularly kick return.

If April signed with San Fran he’d again have an accomplished punter in Andy Lee. April has also interviewed with Pittsburgh and Washington is also said to be interested.

Detroit is another team with a special teams job open, but as of Tuesday they had yet to contact him.

Posted in Inside the Bills

April interviews with Steelers

Posted by Chris Brown on January 11, 2010 – 10:56 am

Former Bills special teams coordinator Bobby April had his first interview with another NFL team.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin interviewed April on Sunday. That according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

April had a previous coaching stint with the Steelers as their special teams coach from 1994-95 under then head coach Bill Cowher.

Pittsburgh was in the lower third of the league in kick and punt coverage this past season prompting the firing of special teams coach Bob Ligashesky at season’s end.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Redskins after April

Posted by Chris Brown on January 7, 2010 – 2:07 pm

Well Bobby April told me on Thursday that he “has a few opportunities out there” and he wasn’t lying.

The Pittsburgh special teams job is open and now word is coming out of the nation’s capital that Redskins owner Dan Snyder covets April.

April is more familiar with Pittsburgh ownership having coached there once before from 1994-95 as the special teams coach. But Snyder pays big money for assistant coaches as we all remember when he shelled out millions for Gregg Williams after he was fired as coach of the Bills.

What’s ironic is if April is offered and takes the job with the Redskins he’ll replace the same guy that he replaced in Buffalo, Danny Smith.

Smith is a very good special teams coach in his own right. While his cover teams were very good in Washington this season, his return units were lacking and they ultimately had to clip kicker Shaun Suisham after putting a few too many attempts outside the uprights.

The new Bills head coach would make some Buffalo special teamers happy if they hired Danny Smith back, provided he no longer has a job at day’s end. Smith coached Moorman and Lindell when he was here (2001-2003).

The Washington coaching staff is currently meeting with Mike Shanahan today to learn their fate.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

April to Pittsburgh?

Posted by Chris Brown on January 7, 2010 – 11:48 am

Bobby April could be employed again very quickly.

The now former Bills assistant head coach and special teams coordinator spent his last day at One Bills Drive Wednesday, but could find new work in a matter of days.

The Pittsburgh Steelers just fired special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, and April has a previous coaching stint in Pittsburgh when he served as special teams coach under Bill Cowher from 1994-95.

Speaking to April by phone Thursday morning, he said, “he has a few opportunities out there.” But he would not name any teams.

He did say the hard thing is deciding on the best situation when there is more than one available to him.

April’s credentials speak for themselves. His special teams units have finished number one in the league (based on Dallas Morning News rankings – Rick Gosselin) three of the last five years, including 2008.

As Bills punter Brian Moorman told me, “Some team is going to be lucky to get him.”

Posted in Inside the Bills

April likely to be in demand

Posted by Chris Brown on January 5, 2010 – 11:40 am

Bobby April won’t be around for Buffalo’s new head coach to recruit for his staff.

This morning April exercised a clause in his contract making him a free agent per ESPN’s John Clayton. He had two years left on his deal with Buffalo. April has been named Special Teams Coach of the Year twice in the last six years.

April is likely to be the most coveted member of Buffalo’s staff after leading the Bills’ special teams units to three number one rankings in five years. Serving as Assistant head coach and special teams coordinator the past four years, many believed when Dick Jauron was fired that April would assume the interim head coaching position.

Instead defensive coordinator Perry Fewell got the nod. It’s believed that April following that move, decided at that point in time that he would pursue opportunities at season’s end. That now in fact has come to fruition.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-11

Posted by Chris Brown on December 11, 2009 – 1:26 pm

The snow has been flying late this week in Buffalo. Crazy wind and at least a foot of snow in most places. But we still bring you Fan Friday as always here on the Inside the Bills blog. As always you can email your questions to

1. Hi, Chris,
With the talent level the Bills have at running back, why don’t they have Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson in the backfield at the same time? They could pound opposing defenses continually, and keep our defense off the field. This would take pressure off of the QB, and maybe put the Bills in position to win more games. The offensive line as it stands right now, is having issues pass blocking. Just a thought…
Tony Falzone, Daytona Beach, Fl

CB: There has been more of this in recent weeks, but not a ton more. I think that set presents a lot more options for the Bills offensively and also affords better pass protection with both Lynch and Jackson back there. We’ll see if there are more snaps with that look over the final four games, but I agree it has a lot of potential for an offense that has struggled all season.

2. Chris,

I know it’s very early in the process, and I keep hearing the Mr. Wilson wants to hire a GM to hire a coach (you could probably say how true that is better than me,) but I had a couple of names I was hoping to get your feedback about for a potential new coach.

1. Brian Billick: While I don’t know how well he actually knows quarterbacks like he claims– I do know he won the Super Bowl with the Ravens, and even when they struggled before he was fired, they played great defense. He seems like he wants to get back to coaching, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in Buffalo.

2. Russ Grimm: He was a finalist for the Pittsburgh and I think Arizona job as well, before Whisenhunt was hired– so I get the impression the guy has something management likes. He’s a firey presence that helped change the culture of the team in Arizona in a VERY short time period…exactly the kind of change Buffalo needs. Also, the guy has an o-line background, and ours desperately needs work.

3. Pete Metzelaars: I know Pete is relatively green… but he was a blink of Tom Moore’s eye from being the OC in Indy this year before he and Mudd decided not to retire. Also, I get the impression that just the timing of some of the early 90’s Bills going into the HOF these past years, that the Bills and its fanbase are reconnecting with those teams. What better way to do it than to bring in one of the pieces that got us there? At the very least in an OC capacity.

I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine any of these guys commanding the kind of money the Cowhers or Shanahans of the world do… so maybe they’d be a fit here?

I’m curious to know your thoughts

Farmington, NY

CB: I think Billick and Grimm are worthwhile candidates. Grimm would certainly put attention where it’s needed on the offensive line. Heck with Grimm at the helm they may draft a tackle before a QB, which I’m not opposed to. The Dolphins showed that could work drafting Jake Long and then Chad Henne. Cleveland had the right idea too with Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn. Quinn is actually playing a bit better of late.

As for Metzelaars I think he is too green for a head job. Wouldn’t mind making him an assistant on this staff, Frank Reich as well for that matter. I think Cowher and Shanahan are unfortunately long shots at best.

3. Hey Chris,
Are the bills done with Trent? Why go back to Fitz again? I think you go with trent, for better or worse, to see if he’s your franchise guy, your thoughts?
CB: I’m afraid that ship appears to have sailed. Players have made no secret even to the media that they prefer having Fitzpatrick in there. No doubt they made those preferences known to the coaching staff as well. So my feeling is Trent will remain the backup for the rest of the season barring injury.

I don’t think there’s any question that Edwards is physically superior to Fitzpatrick, but Fitzpatrick is more willing to take chances in the passing game and he has seen the whole field better when he’s been in there. As to whether Trent is still considered franchise material, I think that’s a determination that may also have been made already, but under a new regime that’s always subject to change. Time will tell.

4. They had a crowd of 51,000 people. We could have sold 70,000 in Ralph Wilson stadium, w/ the large majority cheering loudly for our (undermanned) Bills.

I’m no marketing guru, but how is this putting more money in the franchise’s pocket? Simply because it’s guaranteed money? We haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years and we still get near sellout crowds for most games in Buffalo. The players have repeatedly said the fans support gets them pumped up.
Given the 3 tepid performances so far in Toronto, including the preseason game, it’s hard to see that we are expanding our fan base playing there. The Canadian fans may enjoy seeing the NFL, but they are hardly there to cheer on our home team.

I was pretty skeptical of the idea in the first place. I don’t think it has helped the Bills as a team, or the franchise, or even (cynically) Ralph Wilson himself.  Help me out, Chris. What am I missing?
Gilbert, AZ

CB: The Bills sold the Toronto Series to the Rogers group for $78 million. It equates to $9.75M per game, which is almost double what the franchise pulls in for a regular home game, and far more than that for a preseason game. So that’s a major revenue benefit, which is important in the league’s big market/small market climate right now.

If 2010 goes off without a salary cap, which is looking more and more like reality, this regionalization effort will be more important than most fans realize. It will continue to help to keep the team financially competitive.

Though it may be hard to see how the games in Toronto are helping the fan base, 15% of the season ticket base is from southern Ontario. And figures show that number is now increasing thanks to the team’s annual presence in Toronto.

Believe me when I tell you the decision makers for this franchise understand that it’s a bitter pill to swallow for Bills fans that respect the franchise’s tradition and home field advantage with respect to the 12th Man. But this is a necessary step to keep the team financially viable and competitive in a league where the ‘haves’ are continually trying to make life more difficult for the ‘have nots.’
The Toronto Series helps to keep the team financially viable, while staying in Buffalo.

5. Chris,
Do you see the Bills keeping Perry Fewell around after the season is over?  I like a lot of Bills Fans, like his attitude and think he will be a great loss on the Defensive side, and the same goes for Bobby April. What do you think?
Frederick, MD

CB: I do think both Fewell and April have a lot to offer, but a new head coach generally likes to bring in his own people. I think April has the resume to be offered a job on the staff, no matter what head coach comes in, but I doubt he will take it. It wouldn’t surprise me if April felt passed over for the interim head coaching job, especially with Assistant Head Coach as part of his title under Dick Jauron.
It’s my belief April will be moving on after this season is over, and make no mistake it would be a great loss.

As for Fewell, unless a new coach coming in is a big believer in the Tampa-2 scheme he too is likely to be looking for work elsewhere. It sounds cruel, but these men know its part of the business. I like what Fewell has done in his stint as interim head coach, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the organization determines that they have to wipe the slate clean and turn the page on all that is associated with the Dick Jauron era.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Lindell kickoffs helping too

Posted by Chris Brown on October 28, 2009 – 9:43 am

In today’s top story on we took a look at how special teams has had a sharp spike in production the last two weeks, not coincidentally two Buffalo wins. One additional note that should be mentioned with the improvements is Rian Lindell’s kickoffs.

As Lindell has gotten older his kickoffs have gotten better. The most touchbacks on kickoffs that Lindell has ever had in a season is 10, which he accomplished last season.

Lindell has five already this season through seven games, including three in the last two games. He’s on pace to better his best single season touchback total. More importantly it’s helping to keep the kick return average of Buffalo’s opponents down.

“He’s got five touchbacks and the most he’s ever had is 10,” said Bobby April. “We’re close to the midway point and if he keeps going he’ll be in good shape. His touchbacks have improved. As he’s getting older he’s getting more (of them). He’s kicking better too with pretty decent hang.”

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Sporting News has Bills special teams ranked #1

Posted by Chris Brown on September 10, 2009 – 1:53 pm

After finishing last season as the top ranked special teams unit, the expectations are there to be #1 again.

The Sporting News has the Bills special teams holding the top spot in their preseason rankings.

Bobby April’s unit does not appear to have the same degree of turnover it had last season when several veteran specialists departed via free agency. With the core of the units intact and promising newcomers like Nic Harris, Ashlee Palmer and Ellis Lankster the group should not miss a beat this season.

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Parrish and McKelvin to see return reps

Posted by Chris Brown on August 22, 2009 – 3:05 pm

Through the first two preseason games Buffalo’s top two returners, Roscoe Parrish and Leodis McKelvin have yet to get a return opportunity. That will change Saturday night against the Packers.

With the starters on offense and defense expected to play at least a quarter it appears the same will hold true for the team’s top specialists.

Through the first two preseason games Bruce Hall, C.J. Hawthorne and Dominic Rhodes have seen the majority of the punt and kick return reps. But getting McKelvin and Parrish at least a few opportunities in the preseason has to happen. 

“We have to start working in Roscoe and McKelvin,” special teams coordinator Bobby April told earlier this week.

That will apparently happen tonight with Parrish fielding punts and McKelvin kickoffs at least to start the game. And if anyone is wondering it’s not because Hall and Rhodes each have a muff among their handful of returns.

“Just because a guy made a mistake, like Dominic dropped one and Bruce dropped, it doesn’t mean that mistake is permanent,” said April. “They can take that and grown and learn from it and be really good. It means they’re going to concentrate a little more and get their body in position a little more. It’s not one strike and you’re out.”

The number of opportunities for Parrish and McKelvin is likely to be dependent upon the flow of the game.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Just finished Pittsford triathlon

Posted by Chris Brown on June 7, 2009 – 2:58 pm

As part of Brian Moorman’s PUNT Team a bunch of Bills players participated in a sprint triathlon in the town of Pittsford this morning. Here’s the order of finish for the Team for those that did the swim, bike and run.

Brian Moorman 1:25:16
Andy Simpson 1:28:17
Rian Lindell 1:32:54
Chris Brown 1:37:54
Marty Battaglia 1:38:14
Preston Teague 1:38:18
Mick Morog 1:41:41
Tracie Brown 1:43:02
Bobby April 1:59:52

Team Wendling 1:32:53
Team Williams 1:39:57
Team Moorman 1:59:40

Special props to my wife Tracie who was the only female member of the team to do all three legs.

I’ll try to get some photos up on Monday courtesy of Johna Lindell.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

PUNT Team in Pittsford triathlon Sunday

Posted by Chris Brown on June 5, 2009 – 9:14 pm

Brian Moorman, Rian Lindell, Ryan Neill, special teams coordinator and other Bills club members will be participating in Sunday’s Town Of Pittsford sprint triathlon.

The PUNT Team will be racing to benefit pediatric cancer research as part of Moorman’s PUNT Foundation.

I’ll be there and let you know how everyone did in the race.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

April to appear on Sirius and 97 Rock

Posted by Chris Brown on April 15, 2009 – 6:27 pm

Bills assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Bobby April will be appearing on Sirius NFL Radio tonight at 8:05pm on the heels of his Special Teams Coach of the Year Award.

He’ll also be on 97 Rock Thursday morning at 7:15 am.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Be surprised

Posted by Chris Brown on November 23, 2008 – 5:31 pm

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.

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Posted in Inside the Bills
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