Note: This is the series finale of the Buffalo Rumblings Positional Previews. To view the rest of our positional breakdowns, click your desired position. QB, RB, HB, TE, WR, OT, OG/C, DE, DT, OLB, MLB, CB, S
For the past three seasons, the special teams unit of the Buffalo Bills - led by ace coach Bobby April - has been among the most dominant units in recent memory. Marked by big plays, trick plays and a consistency that makes the unit truly unique, Buffalo's specialists will once again be among the best units in the NFL this coming season. Chalk the consistency of this unit up to the Bills placing more emphasis on special teams than any other team in the league. When players are kept on the roster due simply to their special teams prowess, one realizes the importance of the "third team" to the success of the Buffalo Bills.
Kicking Unit: As far as the kicking game goes, this is where the team has the most consistency. The three-headed monster of Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman and Mike Schneck enters their third season together, and they are consistent, top-notch performers who should continue to get better this season. That's the least of our worries.
Kick/Punt Coverage Units: Here, you'll see some of the familiar names all season - Sam Aiken, Mario Haggan and Coy Wire lead a unit that is helped out by Rian Lindell's directional kickoffs. Jabari Greer and free agent signee Josh Scobey will likely be the team's starting punt gunners. Ashton Youboty, Jim Leonhard, John DiGiorgio, Josh Stamer and rookie John Wendling will all likely see significant playing time here as well, with Wendling a potential star. Most of Buffalo's reserves have the ability to play on kickoff coverage, so depth here is phenomenal.
Block Units: Two of the newest Bills are likely to be featured on the team's kick and punt block units. Wendling and his 66-inch vertical jump will be featured on both units; he seems to have more potential on the punt unit, where he and Coy Wire wil likely be sent after opposing punters. Starting right tackle Langston Walker was a menace to opposing kickers on the Oakland Raiders' field goal block unit, where he blocked five kicks in the two-year span of 2004-05. Once one of the "weaker" aspects of Buffalo's special teams, the block units have more playmaking potential than ever.
Returners: Terrence McGee will likely resume his kick return duties despite his value to the team increasing as the #1 cornerback. If at any point the team feels uncomfortable risking their most experienced defensive back on special teams, reserve running back Scobey has been successful returning kicks in the past. Roscoe Parrish will return punts once again, and his potential there is higher than ever. Jim Leonhard could see a few opportunities as well.
9-Rian Lindell: Started to prove last year that he can be counted on in clutch situations, kicking a game-winning FG against the Jaguars. But he's not considered elite yet - he needs to prove further that he can be counted on to win the close ones for the Bills.
8-Brian Moorman: Two straight Pro Bowl appearances should prove that Moorman is the elite punter in the NFL. Nobody does it better and as consistently as Moorman, who was among the league leaders in net average despite having to deal with windy Buffalo winters. He'll be a Bill as long as he's playing professional football.
54-Mike Schneck: I'm not the biggest advocate of long-snappers making NFL rosters. Often times, this is a wasted roster spot. But Schneck is a rare exception - he is consistent and has developed a good rapport with our two kickers. Not only that, but you occasionally see him making tackles on return units as well. The Bills will keep him around as the third important piece to a consistent kicking effort.
With a dramatic emphasis placed on finding players who can help out on special teams, it's no wonder that this unit strikes a little fear into opponents on a weekly basis. The unit has playmakers, experience and there aren't any real weaknesses. Couple that with the fact that guys like McGee and Parrish are so explosive, and this unit causes a lot of problems for Buffalo's opponents. Now the talent for the special teams units are younger, faster and more talented than ever. The sky is the limit for this unit; as a result, this could be the most special of years for Buffalo's special teams.