BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot
Offense and defense have already been covered in my Positional Previews at Buffalo Bills Draft, so there’s just one area left to discuss: specialists. Buffalo actually has some interesting competitions at both kicker and punter to follow at training camp.
Another area to focus on is in the return game. Leodis McKelvin was far and away Buffalo’s best return man last season, but this season he is the team’s second cornerback. Will Buffalo use McKelvin as much in the return game?
Here’s a look at all of Buffalo’s positional battles at specialist positions.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Sanborn has no competition at long snapper and he’s good at what he does. Barring a major surprise, Sanborn continues to be the team’s long snapper.
Last preseason, Powell lost the training camp battle for punter with Brian Moorman and was cut by the team, but after Week 3 of the 2012 season, Moorman was cut and Powell was re-signed by the Bills.
Powell had up-and-down moments in his first year as punter, but finished with a punt average of 44 yards. Powell was at his best when buried in his own 1-20 yard line, where he averaged 52.1 yards per punt. Powell has the leg to succeed as a punter in the NFL, but needs to show more consistency in training camp.
Stahovich is a quality punter who is going to push Powell for the starting job. Last year, Stahovich was in Indianapolis battling Pat McAfee. McAfee recently tweeted that he believed Stahovich was going to beat him in training camp last season.
Stahovich, a former San Diego State Aztec, was labeled as an accurate punter by NFL.com as a draft prospect. If Stahovich is accurate with his punts in training camp, he may unseat Powell as the team’s punter.
Lindell has been Buffalo’s kicker for the last decade. In his last two seasons, Lindell has made 34 of 39 field goal attempts (87.2 percent). Lindell’s accuracy is there, but the strength of his leg is at question.
Lindell’s longest field goal made over the past two seasons is from 50 yards out. The previous coaching regime had opportunities to go for longer field goals, but often passed. In training camp, Lindell will have to show the ability to make longer field goals for the new coaching regime if he wants to keep his job. Lindell’s cap hit of $3 million may be too much if he cannot consistently make field goals of more than 50 yards.
Drafted by Buffalo in the sixth round of this year’s NFL draft, Hopkins was considered one of the top two kickers available in the draft. Hopkins had a fantastic collegiate career at Florida State, where he set the all-time NCAA FBS scoring record for placekickers with 459 points.
Hopkins’ biggest strength is his leg strength. In 2012, his longest field goal was good from 56 yards out and he has 137 career touchbacks on kickoffs. Lindell slightly outperformed Hopkins at OTAs according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com, but youth and leg strength is on Hopkins’ side.
For more of the Buffalo Bills’ possible returners, go to Page 2.
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Tags: Brad Smith, Brian Stahovich, Buffalo Bills, Da'Rick Rogers, Dustin Hopkins, Garrison Sanborn, Justin Rogers, Leodis McKelvin, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin, Positional Previews, Rian Lindell, Shawn Powell, Specialists