During the preseason, the Buffalo Bills' special teams units, led by new coordinator Bruce DeHaven, were a huge, negative point of emphasis in this fan base. In four preseason games, the Bills gave up a punt return score and numerous lengthy returns. Some of the more radical sections of the fan base began calling for DeHaven's immediate firing.
Four games into the regular season, mistakes continue to be made. Rian Lindell has missed a couple of critical field goal attempts (both from over 50 yards out). Chris Ellis fumbled a pooched kickoff in Week 4 that could have simply been fair caught. In general, the units are not as consistent as they were under former coordinator Bobby April.
Still, given where the special teams were in the preseason - and we're talking particularly about the coverage units here - significant strides have been made. In fact, Buffalo's special teams units, despite its ups and downs, are currently ranked fifth in the NFL by Football Outsiders.
C.J. Spiller and the kick return units grade out very well, ranking third in the league in DVOA behind Seattle (with stud return man Leon Washington) and New England (with stud return man Brandon Tate). Both the kick and punt coverage units, however, have some room for improvement, with both units rating in the middle of the pack (kick coverage graded, and rated, slightly higher than punt coverage).
At least early on, it appears we've reached familiar territory: Buffalo's offense and defense can't do enough to win games, but the special teams units are performing admirably. That has been the case for about seven years now.