While not as exciting as Josh Allen developing or starting defensive-end battles, the back-end roster competition goes a long way toward shaping the final roster of an NFL team. Like most teams, Sean McDermott and company expect that the players getting the last few spots provide value on special teams. They’re also not afraid to sprinkle in established starters. Let’s take a crack at predicting the core special teams group in 2019.
The best place to start is to take a look at who led the team in special-teams snaps in 2018. As is standard practice, here’s a colorful table showing everyone who broke the 30% mark of special-teams play time last season.
Despite a flurry of roster moves by the Buffalo Bills this year, the list remains mostly intact. Andre Holmes, Logan Thomas, and Ramon Humber are no longer with the team, but that’s it. The answer to our question then would appear to be that snap counts will be distributed basically the same in 2019. Of course it’s never that easy, new roster additions could push guys down or even off the list.
If we’re looking for trends, it’s notable that eight of the 13 players come from the defensive back-seven. One player on the list is a specialist, leaving just a few players from offense. That’s not coincidental—speed and tackling/blocking are keys to special teams play. Let’s take a look at some new additions who might dethrone a core special teamer or two.
- Vosean Joseph: The Bills’ top three linebackers are set with Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano and Lorenzo Alexander. And with the Bills using two linebackers on most defensive snaps, there’s not much room for anything other than depth. Joseph will be competing with the likes of Deon Lacey and Julian Stanford to make the team. If he does, it could be at their expense. Juwan Foggie and Tyrel Dodson will find themselves in a similar situation but will likely have a tougher path
- Cam Lewis: Like Joseph, Cam Lewis finds himself behind a pool of talent that more than likely keeps him low on the charts. He won’t necessarily need to beat out Kevin Johnson, E.J. Gaines or Levi Wallace. Jumping Lafayette Pitts might be enough to land on the team.
- Maurice Alexander: A veteran presence from the defensive side can’t be ruled out either. Alexander is converting from the safety position to linebacker, but either are fair game for McDermott’s special teams. Alexander was a special-teams mainstay with the Rams and Seattle Seahawks, which could help leverage a spot on the team.
- Tommy Sweeney: The injury to Tyler Kroft leaves the Bills short at tight end, which likely opens the door wide for Dawson Knox to find his way onto a depleted tight-end grouping. Tommy Sweeney will have a less clear path, but could fill in a vacated spot such as that left by Andre Holmes. It’s not unthinkable that Sweeney replaces Patrick DiMarco or finds a similar path onto the roster either.
It’s likely that many familiar names will still top the list of special-teams snaps. New faces replacing the entire top trio of Deon Lacey, Lafayette Pitts, and Siran Neal is not a scenario that’s realistic. If the right circumstances play out, one of the names listed above might replace a core special-teams player. I like Vosean Joseph to land a spot. What players do you see finding their way into the special-teams lineup?