As the regular season draws nearer, roster competitions are heating up. In some cases, tidbits of information doled out by teams seem to provide a glimpse of which back-end players have an advantage to make the roster. For the Buffalo Bills, special teams coordinator Heath Farwell may have provided just such a tidbit Thursday. Darryl Johnson Jr.’s special teams ability seems to be giving him an edge.
During his time with media prior to practice, Heath Farwell was asked about he contributions of Johnson.
“He’s always been great for me,” Farwell said. “To get four phases out of a defensive end, y’know those are hard to find. Pre-game when I talk to the other coordinators he’s the first guy that they bring up. It’s a mismatch having a guy that big and that fast running down the field, he’s just a huge factor they have to account for.”
In 2020, Johnson played 58 percent of the Bills’ special teams snaps, third on the team. In 2019, it was 66 percent, good for second-most. Meanwhile, his numbers on defense were nearly identical; he played exactly 225 snaps in each season, 21 percent or so of the total.
Farwell uses Johnson as an example, holding him up for other young players on how to make the roster and contribute. He noted that he’s having a good camp at defensive end, too.
“What I tell these young players; ‘Look what he’s done.’” said Farwell of Johnson. “He’s able to find a niche on special teams and buy himself time to play defense, to learn the skill.”
What does he bring to the table? What makes him a four-phase special teams player despite playing defensive end, not necessarily a position known for that type of special teams versatility.
“He’s a huge man running down on kickoffs running as fast as linebackers. You don’t see big guys running down the field like that,” said Farwell. “He’s a guy that gets double-teamed a lot because you can’t single block him.”
As suggested by general manager Brandon Beane, it’s never a bad idea to be in Heath Farwell’s hip pocket. It sounds like Darryl Johnson is right where he wants to be in that regard.