One particularly interesting approach the Bills have taken over the past two seasons has been in the kicking game.
While Buffalo is more than set with Rian Lindell and Brian Moorman as their incumbent punter and kicker, it would appear as if the Bills are opening their eyes to a few different options at each position. After seeing a few new faces at kicker late last season and a quality punter in training camp, perhaps the Bills are preparing for life after Lindell and Moorman.
In past seasons, the Bills have brought in a pair of extra legs in order to relieve their two stalwart specialists. However, it would appear that drafting John Potter and bringing in Shawn Powell would be the first indication of the change in philosophy.
One of Buffalo’s extra legs for training camp in 2011 was Reid Forrest, a well respected punter from Washginton State who even displayed some similar talents to Moorman in the fake kick department. While Forrest didn’t stick beyond camp, he was a slightly more established projected than some of the training camp kickers the Bills had used in the past.
Obviously Lindell’s injury gave Bills fans a chance to see life on the other side of the fence – and it was an ugly life – but it also made many wonder who will take over for Lindell and Moorman one day. Neither are getting any younger and there will come a time that the Bills need to move in a different direction. While 2012 may not be the season this happens, these two new prospects show that the time may be approaching.
Shawn Powell is a pretty serious prospect given his career at Florida State. It is a shame that he may not ever end up in a Bills uniform. He has a massive leg and enjoyed quite a bit of success during his time at FSU. I wonder what his prospects may be over the next few seasons given the skill he does possess. Not to assume that Moorman is going anywhere soon, but Powell would certainly be an adequate replacement.
Potter is touted as a kickoff specialist, a talent that Lindell sorely lacks. It would appear the Bills may be seriously considering giving this kid a spot on the final 53 as an extra weapon on Sundays. To be honest, there may actually be room for him.
First things first, there are 22 other positions that benefit from that spot on the 53-man roster and even more from the 46th spot on the active roster. However, with Brad Smith basically occupying the spot of a WR and third QB, the Bills have the tiniest bit of wiggle room with their roster. Again, there are 22 other positions that would benefit more from that one extra spot.
But to play devil’s advocate, there is good reason to keep that extra kicker dressed on gameday. First, if there is a freak accident with Lindell you have a safety parachute. Potter also provides a kicker capable of putting the ball through the end zone, something Buffalo hasn’t been very good at. Ever.
The prospect of committing to a kickoff specialist is actually somewhat promising. It guarantees that your opponent will always have to go 80 yards and that is always promising. However, weighing out the balance between that roster spot and extra touchbacks is a different argument. Bottom line, there are probably more positions to worry about with that additional roster spot.
The only true argument I could make for reserving an additional spot for a kickoff specialist is because of the versatility that many of the Bills players have. It is safe to assume that more could be asked of some of Buffalo’s safeties or linebackers on special teams that would make way for such a player. Certainly a linebacker or safety that will only be playing on special teams wouldn’t be sorely missed.
Still, the base of the argument comes down to keeping an extra kicker over a player at a far more important position. With kickoffs moved up five yards last season, the need for a true specialist is even more diminished. Perhaps they decide that Potter is worth a roster spot for a few weeks. However, if there are any injury issues that crop up, you can bet he would be the first to be shipped out.
Obviously the Bills are evaluating the options available to them for when Lindell and Moorman do eventually move on. Of course, there is still time before this becomes a true issue. But it is somewhat reassuring to know the Bills are aware that they’re on the back nine with Lindell and Moorman.