The Buffalo Bills place a high value on special teams and, as a result, they make sure to keep a stockpile of players who excel in that phase of the game. Whether it’s as a gunner on punt coverages or as a personal protector in the punt unit, the Bills make sure they have talented players who can help them win the game’s often forgotten phase.
While those players may have other positions that they technically play, their main role is really as specialists. Tyler Matakevich, for example, is a linebacker, but you won’t see him play much linebacker—especially in a game that’s close or that matters. In some cases, Buffalo’s specialists have played multiple positions aside from their duties on special teams.
In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss one such player—a hybrid corner/safety who excels in punt coverage.
Name: Siran Neal
Height/Weight: 6’ 206 lbs
Age: 28 (29 on 8/4/2023)
Experience/Draft: 5; selected in the fifth round (No. 154 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft by Buffalo
College: Jacksonville State (AL)
Acquired: Fifth-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Neal signed a three-year deal worth up to $9 million back in February. The deal contains $3.3 million in guarantees. For the 2022 season, Neal carries a $2,273,333 cap hit and a dead-cap number of $2.9 million if Buffalo were to release or trade him.
2021 Recap: Neal played more total snaps than he’s ever played in his career last year, and he acquitted himself just as well as he usually does. He totaled 23 tackles, 13 of which came on special teams. That was the second-highest total of special teams tackles on the squad, trailing Matakevich by one tackle, and the 11th-highest total in the league. Neal’s 287 special teams snaps were fourth on the team, and he even appeared on 14% of the team’s defensive snaps, his highest share in that phase since 2019. He forced and recovered one fumble. Neal totaled three tackles in the playoffs, with all three coming against the New England Patriots.
Positional outlook: Neal is one of the core special teamers on the roster, but he’s also one of a handful of slot corners the team has. Taron Johnson and Cam Lewis are the other primary slot players. Neal’s time at safety seems to be over, but he does have experience there, as well. Tre’Davious White, Jordan Miller, Tim Harris, Olaijah Griffin, Kaiir Elam, Dane Jackson, Nick McCloud, Christian Benford, and Ja’Marcus Ingram are the other corners on the roster.
2022 Offseason: Neal is healthy and he has participated in all camp and workout activities to date.
2022 Season outlook: Barring injury, Neal will reprise his role as a corner-in-name-only, serving as one of the Bills’ top special teams players instead as his main role. Neal doesn’t see much time on defense unless Taron Johnson is dinged up or the score is a blowout, but he is a capable fill-in who is an adequate blitzer off the edge. Keeping the band together on special teams is a good thing, and most of Neal’s guaranteed money in his contract pays out this year. The extension was a good one, and he is a valuable part of the team’s success.