Doug Marrone: Buffalo Bills need more core special teams players

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

It's sounding an awful lot like the Buffalo Bills aren't particularly pleased with their core group of special teams players.

Aside from offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett - who isn't going anywhere, by the way - no Buffalo Bills coach working for Doug Marrone has endured more bad press this season than special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. His hiring was panned from the moment it was reported, and since then, the Bills have endured one of their worst special teams seasons in recent memory.

While fans clamor for a coaching change, however, Marrone - without confirming that Crossman's job is safe heading into the 2014 season - went out of his way to point out that the team felt Crossman was at a disadvantage in his first season with the Bills.

"We knew going into the year that it was going to be a difficult situation for him," Marrone said on Monday. "When we looked at the team from a core special teams standpoint, we felt that we had some good return specialists; we really didn’t have as many opportunities as we would have liked. Obviously, Danny is disappointed - we all are - in the performance in some of those areas.

"I think it goes back to the same thing we said before," Marrone continued. "When you look at these teams, and the elite special teams, sometimes people lose sight of that phase of the game. They see the core players on offense, they see them on defense, but just this past week when you look at New England, and you look at a player like (Matthew Slater), I mean, he is a special teams killer. He is a great player that plays teams.

"One of the things that we have to establish is a core," Marrone concluded. "I think Marcus Easley stepped up big for us. He would be a core-type player. What our goal is is to have six of those type players. (Duke Williams) has played well at times, Ty Powell has played well at times. When you have about six core special teams players that are playing on three to four teams for you, now you have the ability to perform at a high level. We felt that that’s an area that we have to improve on with our football team."

GM Doug Whaley told reporters that the team will soon begin the process of trying to re-sign free agent kicker Dan Carpenter and punter Brian Moorman, as well - so while the Bills certainly have their issues to work out offensively and defensively, it's sounding a lot like improvement on special teams could end up being a major point of emphasis for the organization this spring.

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