The Buffalo Bills carry a lot of players on their roster who are really special teams pieces in spite of their listed positions. This always stirs up offseason debate, as roster construction becomes one of the only things we have to discuss in the doldrums of June and July (well, if we’re lucky, anyway—there were a few years there back in the day where the Bills gave us some not-so-fun headlines in the summertime).
What makes a special teams player elite? Is it the number of tackles he makes on his own? Is it the function of the group as a whole? Can we as fans pick it up from the broadcast, or do we need to “trust the process” and allow the coaches to do it for us? Will further tape study allow us to know who is a special teams stud and who is a roster dud?
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we don’t really address those questions—but we will discuss a special teams player who has carved out a solid niche for himself over the course of his NFL career.
Name: Taiwan Jones
Height/Weight: 6’ 195 lbs
Age: 33 (34 on 7/26/2022)
Experience/Draft: 12; selected by the Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders in the fourth round (No. 125 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft
College: Eastern Washington
Acquired: Signed with Buffalo for the second time on 3/30/2020
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Jones agreed to a one-year contract extension this April, a deal worth a total of $1,272,500 overall. The contract includes a signing bonus of $152,500 and total guarantees of $652,500. If Jones is released prior to Week 1, his dead-cap number is just that signing bonus. If Jones is released after Week 1, his entire salary is guaranteed since he is a vested veteran. Jones carries a cap hit of $1,047,500.
2021 Recap: Jones was active for and appeared in all 17 regular-season games in 2021, and he played just one offensive snap. His main use is on special teams, where he appeared on 306 snaps, good for third on the team behind Tyler Matakevich and Reggie Gilliam. He had six tackles and a fumble recovery in that phase of the game. He even returned a kickoff, gaining 14 yards on his lone attempt. That was the first time he’d returned a kick since 2018 in his first stint with the Bills. He was a special teams captain last year.
Positional outlook: Jones joins Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and Reggie Gilliam as the four returning backfield players. Rookies James Cook and Raheem Blackshear join veteran Duke Johnson in rounding out the group.
2022 Offseason: Jones is healthy and he has participated in OTAs thus far.
2022 Season outlook: Taiwan Jones is a great teammate, a great gunner on punt coverage, and a hard worker. On a roster as talented as Buffalo’s, I’d like to project that the team could find another player (perhaps someone with more offensive versatility) to cover his special teams snaps just as well as he does. If I were making Buffalo’s roster in Madden, Jones is one of the first guys I release. But this isn’t Madden, and the Bills don’t have another running back who can do what he does on special teams at the level he does it. That means that either Moss or Johnson will probably be released, leaving Jones as the running-back-in-name-only on the roster.