Special Teams Preview: Rich Get Richer

Bobby April (left) must be one happy camper these days. The addition of Leodis McKelvin gives Buffalo the best return unit in the league, says BFR's Marc Heintzman. Still, the team lost some core special teams players...

If there's one thing the Bills can be proud of over the past few years, it is their dominance on special teams.

It isn't just one aspect of special teams either, they've practically been tops in kicking, punting, returning, and coverage units. However, one of these areas remains at risk of losing its dominant status because of veteran departures this off-season. Special teams aces Sam Aiken, Coy Wire, Josh Stamer, Mario Haggan and Ryan Neufeld, all part of the hard-hitting coverage unit, are no longer on the team. This is a very underrated aspect of the Bills' strong unit. As training camp opens, new players will have to step up and fill the huge void left by these players.

Lucky for the Bills, they still have assistant head coach and special teams genius, Bobby April. April loves the opportunity to work with no-name players, from the bottom of the depth charts, and make them into special teams monsters. He's done it countless times, with all the above veterans and others, and he's got plenty of talent to do it again.

The nightmare of Frank Wycheck hurling a lateral (?) to Kevin Dyson eight years ago is a distant memory now.

Players that may not see much time as a starter, will see plenty of time on coverage units. Presumed backups Reggie Corner, Kennard Cox, Chris Ellis, Alvin Bowen and Derek Fine are just a few names to look out for this season. Ellis and Fine actually come from programs in college where they saw a lot of time on special teams units, and know just how important it is to the game.

April won't be working with all rookies. There are many returning veterans that have contributed in the past to the special teams efforts. John DiGiorgio, John Wendling, Blake Costanzo, and George Wilson all have experience on coverage units and will, in all likeliness, see more time there this season.

Beyond the fresh start the coverage units will receive, the Bills' rich return units just got richer.

The team already possesses the best punt/kick return duo in Roscoe Parrish and Terrence McGee. Parrish was tops in the league for average return yards (16.3 per return) and recorded his second career return for a touchdown. McGee has been tops in the league before, not to mention had a Pro Bowl appearance, and brought his career return touchdown total to seven (five kickoff, one INT, one FR) last season.

The rich got richer when the Bills drafted speed demon Leodis McKelvin. McKelvin has his own impressive returning resume at Troy, setting numerous school, conference records, and tying the NCAA Division 1-A record for eight career return touchdowns (seven punt, one kickoff).

It's unclear how McKelvin can fit into the already talented returning pool, but April would be foolish not to utilize such a tremendous talent. Parrish-McKelvin-McGee has the makings of a terrorizing trio. It should be very interesting to see what April does with all this talent during training camp, and just how much of an impact they have during games this season. If all goes well and this group impresses, they'll have critics saying, "Devin who?"

The kicking game will remain solid with Rian Lindell returning from, arguably, his best season yet. Lindell connected on 24 of 27 field goals (88.9 pct), kicked a team-record 18 consecutive FGs, and extended his streak of PATs to a perfect 248-248. He's had to contend with kicking through the ever-famous "swirling winds of Ralph Wilson Stadium", and still manages to improve every season. If he keeps his game up, Lindell is due for a Pro Bowl appearance in February.

No stranger to swirling winds (and Pro Bowls), the dynamic Brian Moorman returns to his punting duties this season. Moorman didn't have his best season in 2007, but remained one of Buffalo's biggest threats because of his ability to change a game with one kick. Power, precision, athleticism, Moorman's got it all. You can count on a strong performance from Moorman, and he will undoubtedly thrill fans during camp and into the regular season with his play.

On a Bills team brimming with excitement and promise, this special teams unit can be the one to push them over the top into the playoffs this year. April will be squeezing everything he can out of training camp, preparing his squad for another dominant year. He'll be trying everything he can to get the most out of the incredible talent he's been given, and if history repeats itself, April will deliver the goods.


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