I hope everyone continues to enjoy the summer as we inch closer and closer towards training camp on July 26th! Today’s post wraps up the positional injury reviews for the 2017 season. Today’s article may be the briefest due to an overall lack of injuries, however without the special teams unit, the Bills struggle mightily! This article will review the kicker, punter, and long snapper positions.
First up is LS Reid Ferguson. The talented long snapper finished his first season after spending the 2016 season on the practice squad. Ferguson was able to take over the incumbent LS Garrison Sanborn last season who moved onto the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While there is no official statistics for a long snapper, the body of work for a long snapper is evident with the effectiveness of the kicker and punter. Though a long snapper is only on the field for field goals and punts, they are still at risk for injury just as much as any other player. During punt returns, they still have to go block and tackle the returner. Unfortunately, special team plays like this can cause serious injury such as last year to the Bears and Jaguars. Thankfully, Ferguson avoided injury and is looking to build off a strong 2017 season. If you don’t hear his name again this season, this just means he’s doing his job very well.
Moving to the next position, P Colton Schmidt arrives on the list. The 4th year pro has been a steady presence in the backfield on 4th down after some inconsistency following the release of longtime punter and fan favorite Brian Moorman. Schmidt had 79 punts with an average of 44.7 yards/punt with a season long of 60 yards. Out of those 79 punts, he was able to place 28 inside the 20, good for a 35% rate. Along with Ferguson, Schmidt avoided injury this season and appears to continue his productive career in 2018.
Finally, we round out this article with K Steven Hauschka. The 10th year pro continues to make his mark in Buffalo after stops in Baltimore, Denver, and Seattle where he had his greatest success culminating in 2 Super Bowl appearances with one championship. Hauschka found his way to Buffalo and continued his high level of play in which he was 29/33 in FG’s made, going perfect at 20-29, 30-39, and going 7/9 at both 40-49 and 50-59. This was good for a 87.9% FG completion and was perfect on extra points. The veteran kicker was the only special teams player to suffer an injury this past season. Hauschka suffered a right hip injury following the Saints game which caused him to miss some practice that week but did not cause him to miss any games. Reading further into his injury, it did not appear to be anything more than a possible muscle strain as he was able to play through the discomfort and it did not land him on the injury report the rest of the season. As he is right footed with regards to kicking, the ability to swing his kicking leg through effectively pain free is vital to his ability to perform.
While the NFL has at times been criticized for making the game “soft” through rule changes, these changes are the reason the Bills special team players were able to remain healthy with penalties. Each position has been afforded special rules to ensure their safety. Rules for punter/kicker, and long snapper can be found here. Overall, these rules make the game safer and allow these world class athletes perform their craft avoiding serious injury.
Competing for roster spots are K Tyler Davis and P Cory Carter going into the 2018 season. While I do not believe that they will seriously threaten the above mentioned roster spots, other teams will be watching in the event they are not satisfied with their special team games. Both of these players may find their way onto the practice squad, however I believe that the front office would rather place other positional players on the practice squad for greater depth. Look for this special teams unit to be incredibly effective going into the 2018 season and help keep the Bills in games if the offense fails to move the ball.
This wraps up the 2017 season positional injury reviews. I hope you enjoyed looking back at this memorable season and reflect on how valuable healthy starters are along with effective depth is to a team. This series also demonstrated how the Bills avoided serious injuries this year which led to proper player development rather than inserting players who are not ready or are ill suited for the position/scheme.
Continue to check back at Banged Up Bills on Facebook and on Twitter @BangedUpBills. Look for the latest injury news coming out of training camp, general injury explanations, and anything else that can be reported on. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!