Earlier this season, the decision by Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey to keep John Potter on the 53-man roster as a kickoff specialist resulted in a lot of complaints from the fan base. Many commenters on BuffaloRumblings would have preferred to see the Bills keep a sixth wide receiver - perhaps Marcus Easley, Naaman Roosevelt, or Derek Hagan - or otherwise use that roster spot more effectively. After Potter's impressive preseason, a lot of that criticism died down. But how's it working out for us?
After 4 games, Potter has kicked off 21 times. Of these, 12 went for touchbacks, and 7 were returned, giving Potter a 57% touchback rate, which is a significant drop-off from his performance in the preseason. By comparison, in 2011, Rian Lindell kicked off 43 times for 12 touchbacks, or roughly a 28% touchback rate, less than half Potter's current rate.
However, this has not translated into better field position for the Bills. Lindell kept opponents, on average, to the 21.2 yard line on his kickoffs in 2011. The average field position on Potter's kicks is all the way out to the 24.1. A significant part of this problem is associated with the small sample size that we are working with. However, despite the improved touchback rate, the 2012 Bills are actually worse off in terms of opponents' starting field position than were the 2011 Bills.
What do you think about the Bills' decision to keep Potter as a kickoff specialist, after seeing the results of the first quarter of the year? Let me know in the comments.