Can a special teams unit that was dominant in scoring five touchdowns in 2004 improve? Special teams coach Bobby April thinks they can. They became the first NFL unit since 1959 to hit the end zone that many times and it may be a tough act to duplicate. They are returning almost all their players and are actually adding one very explosive weapon.
The Bills top pick Roscoe Parrish is suppose to challenge, and most likely win, the main punt return job from Nate Clements. Jonathan Smith and Clements did a great job returning punts last year as Clements found the end zone once and wants to hold on to the job. Parrish is one of those special talents and the Bills drafted him with an eye on using him as a punt returner because of his explosive speed. Look for him to win the primary job. The Bills used two returners on many occasions last year, which means Clements or Smith may be back there with him from time to time. Drew Haddad will also get a look this summer as a punt returner along with undrafted free agent Jim Leonhard.
Terrence McGee was a dominant kick return man, he returned three for touchdowns on his way to Hawaii and a Pro Bowl berth. He is the heavy favored to return as the primary man but the Bills will give a look to Smith and free agent pickup ReShard Lee. The former Cowboy was a solid kick returner last season but not as explosive as McGee. Parrish and Josh Reed will also get a look. Parrish doesn't have much experience returning kickoffs but neither did McGee out of college. Look for Parrish or Lee to be back there with McGee when the opponents kick it off.
The stable of veterans on coverage and blocking units return, led by Josh Stamer, Angelo Crowell, Mario Haggan, and last year's captain Joe Burns. April thinks that undrafted free agent fullback Jon Goldsberry has a shot at making the team with his special teams play. He was a standout at Purdue.
The punting situation is very stable as Brian Moorman is one of the best in the league at his position. Kicker Rian Lindell had an inconsistent season in 2004 but April thinks he looks real good this year. Lindell was solid inside the 40 but awful outside that stripe.
You can't expect this unit to score five touchdowns again this year, it just doesn't happen every year. The offense will need to pick up that slack. If the unit plays up to its capabilities of last season, they will make some plays and give the offense good field position throughout the season making it easier for the inexperienced quarterback.
This is the third of a series of articles previewing the Bills training camp.
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Offensive Camp Preview
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