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Buffalo Bills Thursday Thought: The Value of Special Teams




As training camp ramps up, all the roster projections and speculation begin. Fans and the media go back and forth on will make the roster on twitter and debate endlessly about this position battle or that bubble player. However, there is one important aspect of all of this to remember, Sean McDermott, values special teams tremendously. This factor will play hugely into who makes the roster and who are even locks based on special teams alone. This week’s Thursday Thought: The value of special teams.

For starters, several players based on special teams alone are locks to make the 53-man roster. Taiwan Jones is at the top of this list. A nine-year veteran, Jones is a standout gunner and provides some ability to return kickoffs. Although he provides very little as an offensive option, he’s an asset on special teams.

Another player is Siran Neal. Similar to Jones, Neal emerged last season as an excellent special teams player. His ability to get down the field in a hurry and locate the football on punts has helped him find a role on this team. He is starting to play the “big nickel” that McDermott likes to use, his special teams play is enough to make the roster.

Oct 22, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Taiwan Jones (26) looks to avoid a tackle by Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith (51) and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (58) during the fourth quarter of a game at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The final player that essentially a lock to make this roster based on special teams is Andre Roberts. Although Bills fans would like to see the team move on from the veteran return man, it seems clear that they have no intentions to. He’s one of the league’s best returns and is a veteran presence in the locker room. Although other players on the Bills roster has experience as a returner, no one on the team is as good as Roberts.

Then there are the bubble players who will have to make noise on special teams to secure a roster spot. Something often overlooked, guys towards the bottom of the depth chart rarely get in-game action unless there’s an injury. Which means the only way they can play is on special teams.

Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka (4) kicks a field goal, during the first half at an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Buffalo Bills punter Corey Bojorquez (9) holds. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

So even if a player on the bubble shows some ability as a weapon on offense or defense, if they can’t play special teams, it’s unlikely they will make the team. An example of a player who’s in the situation is Duke Williams. He shows out in practice as an option in the passing game, yet with so many players ahead of him on the depth chart, it puts him in a challenging spot to make the team. On top of that, he provides little on special teams, which makes it harder for him to make it.

Special teams are valued tremendously by the Bills. If you can’t prove yourself on special teams, a roster spot will be hard to come by. If you do prove your worth on special teams, they’ll value you like a starter. This will be a huge factor when in several weeks McDermott and his staff try to assemble the 53-man roster.

Mitch Broder is a contributor for The Buffalo Fanatics. To contact him, email him at or on Twitter @mitchell_broder