2013 Buffalo Bills Positional Previews: Specialists

Leodis McKelvin was the Buffalo Bills’ leading kickoff and punt returner in 2012, but the Bills will have to decide whether to use him in both capacities in addition to starting him at cornerback. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas — USA Today Sports)

Kick Returner

Buffalo has quite a few players currently on their roster that they could look at to return kicks. Some of the options the team used last season may not make the roster in 2013, but a few draftees could help.

Leodis McKelvin

McKelvin returned 18 kicks in 2012. He averaged 28.3 yards per return and showed the ability to read his blocks well. As the team’s second cornerback, Buffalo may be hesitant to use McKelvin as a kick returner.

Brad Smith

Smith was Buffalo’s other top kick returner in 2012. On the same number of returns, his 27.6 yards per return was slightly under McKelvin’s average. Smith was the only kick returner on the Bills to return a kick for a touchdown last season. Smith’s ability to return kicks as well as cover special teams should help him land a roster spot with the team in 2013.

Marcus Easley

To be honest, Easley does not have great odds when it comes to making the team, but he did return two kicks in 2012 for 75 combined yards. His 37.5 yards per return led the team, but the sample size is obviously very small. If Easley is to make the roster, he’ll have to outperform Smith, both as a wide receiver and on special teams.

Justin Rogers

Rogers’ play as a cornerback regressed in 2012, but he does have additional value as a kick returner. He had two returns in 2012 that went for an average of 27.5 yards. Rogers has a chance to compete for the slot corner position, but he may be best served as a reserve cornerback who handles kickoff duties for the team.

Marquise Goodwin

Goodwin’s blazing speed could benefit Buffalo’s return game. The third-round draft pick should be used as an offensive weapon, but he won’t see the field consistently. At Texas, Goodwin had 44 career kickoff returns for 985 yards.

The Bills would be wise to let Goodwin handle a few kickoffs during the preseason to get a look at him. If the Bills block well in front of him, Goodwin’s 4.27 40-yard dash speed could make him extremely difficult to catch.

Da’Rick Rogers

Rogers had 17 kickoff returns during his time at the University of Tennessee. By the end of the 2013 NFL season, Rogers could see significant playing time at receiver. Early in the season, however, the team may see how he performs as a kick returner.

Rogers’ speed, size and strength would make for an interesting experiment returning kickoffs.

Punt Returner

McKelvin

McKelvin handled the majority of Buffalo’s punt returns in 2012. His 23 punt returns went for a league-leading average of 18.7 yards, including two touchdown returns. Even if McKelvin is the team’s second cornerback, the team may have to go with him as he is one of the best punt returners in the NFL.

Rogers

Rogers returned only three punts last season for a paltry average of 4.7 yards, but if the team doesn’t want to use McKelvin as a returner in any capacity, Rogers may get the first shot of winning punt return duties.

Check out the full set of Positional Previews below!

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

Offensive Line

Defensive Line

Linebackers

Defensive Backs

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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

5 Responses to “2013 Buffalo Bills Positional Previews: Specialists”

  1. Glenn Gifford says:

    Nice write up again Ryan. Kickoff and punt return really does pose some issues. A rookie as a returner may be a way for a kid like Goodwin to ease into the lineup. Any thoughts on TJ Graham? He did specials in college? Good work on all of these positional reviews.

    • Ryan Talbot says:

      Thanks Glenn!

      I think Graham could get a look at some point. Right now, I believe Buffalo has Graham as their X-receiver, so they may shy away from using him right away. If Graham doesn’t perform and is replaced by Da’Rick Rogers, Goodwin, Brad Smith, etc. then they may try him in the return game.

  2. Duncan says:

    I’m really excited to see Goodwin on special teams, his speed will be great on punt returns.

    • Ryan Talbot says:

      Not sure if they give Goodwin a look at punt returns. He only handled kickoff duties at Texas, but it’s a possibility. I think he’ll receive an opportunity on kickoff duties. Personally, I don’t mind McKelvin handling punt duties, but I don’t want him doing both.

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