The Buffalo Bills finished 2nd in the NFL in overall special teams play in 2014, according to a comprehensive special teams study conducted by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. That is up from 31st in 2013, which is a pretty significant improvement. At this time last year, fans were calling for Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman’s job following his units’ awful showing. However, the team stayed it’s course, explaining that they didn’t have a “core group” of special teamers that could play on all four teams. During the 2014 offseason, the Bills made it clear that they wanted to improve in that area. The team brought in core special teamers Boobie Dixon and Corey Graham, who both had a major impact for the Bills.
While the Bills’ coverage units on special teams were the most drastically improved, the return teams looked like many expected them to be 2013, when they averaged under 20 yards-per-kick return and failed to score a touchdown. In 2014, the Bills’ primary kick returners (C.J. Spiller, Marquise Goodwin, Leodis McKelvin, Marcus Thigpen) averaged 25.7 yards-per-return. The team scored touchdowns on both kick and punt returns.
For a complete look at the drastic improvements the Bills made on special teams, check out the table below, comparing the units from 2013 to 2014.
Special Teams MVP’s
Marcus Easley has quietly established himself as one of the premier special teams players in the National Football League. After recording 19 tackles in 2013, Easley made just 11 in 2014, but did so in five fewer games. In 2013 he missed four tackles, but he lowered that number to just one last year. Easley is set to become an unrestricted free agent and the Bills should definitely retain him.
Boobie Dixon made just two tackles on kick coverages, but he consistently filled his lanes and forced runners into traffic. His biggest impact came in the return game where he blocked two punts; one of which sealed a victory over the division rival New York Jets.
C.J. Spiller is one of the most explosive athletes in the league, and the Bills showcased that ability in 2014 on kick returns. Spiller returned 10 kicks for 304 yards, including a 102-yard touchdown against the Miami Dolphins. His ability in the kicking game often set the Bills up with good field position.