Training camp is here! After nearly 8 months of waiting, the Bills break for training camp on Thursday & we are one step closer to having meaningful Sunday’s again. Today’s article marks the finale of the positional reviews for the 2018 season. Special teams bringing up the rear and rounding out the remaining Bills players on the roster.
First up is LS Reid Ferguson. The now veteran snapper has made a nice home for himself in Buffalo, appearing in every game the last 2 seasons while not missing a snap and avoiding injury. While there are not many stats for long snappers, he did accumulate 3 total tackles, 2 solo, 1 assisted. He will be coming back this season as the most consistent special teams player and look to improve on their performance from last season.
P Matt Darr appeared in 5 games this past season, punting the ball 20 times for 809 yards. He also did not suffer any injuries but his time with the team was solely due to the injuries and inconsistencies at a normally stable punter position. Darr has since moved onto the New York Jets for the 2019 season.
P Colton Schmidt had two stints with the team, winning the job coming out of training camp before getting cut in favor of Bojorquez. However, Schmidt did get re-signed to the team for 3 games after Bojorquez went down with injury. He was able to make 16 punts for 676 yards during his brief time in Buffalo and avoid injury. He is currently a free agent but unlikely to return to Buffalo this coming season.
P Cory Carter missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered in the Browns preseason game. This was the result of a Browns player running into Carter’s leg after he got the punt off, he was unable to land safely on his plant leg, the knee hyperextended and the ACL tore. Carter spent all of last season on IR but the team appeared to like him enough to bring him back to compete for the starting job this season. To note, he was the only Bills player to suffer an ACL tear last season.
Moving onto P Corey Bojorquez, he suffered a torn labrum during the Tennessee Titans game in which he attempted a botched fake field goal. While he was attempting to throw the ball, he was tackled and the force of his fully flexed arm led to a labral tear. He was able to play several more games before being shut down and sent to IR. Bojorquez appeared in 8 games, totaling 45 punts for 2028 yards & 1 block. He appears to be fully healthy coming into this season and should have a healthy competition with P Cory Carter for the starting job.
Next man up is RB Taiwan Jones. While he is listed as a running back, his mark was made on special teams. He appeared in 6 games, mostly returning punts until he suffered some sort of neck injury against the Houston Texans. I have reviewed film countless times and was unable to identify what the injury was. Whatever he was diagnosed with, he was sent to IR for the season but has since signed with Houston to bolster their special teams in 2019. To note, he did suffer a rather gruesome gash on his head as the result of a muffed punt against the Chargers where he took a direct hit from a helmeted player. Thankfully, he did not suffer a concussion and as far as we know, no lasting issues with the head wound.
Finally, K Stephen Hauschka rounds out the special teams unit. He appeared in all 16 games finishing 22/28 for a 78.4% FG percentage completion which is an all time low for the veteran kicker. He also made 25/26 extra point kicks for a 96.2% completion. However, to provide context, Hauschka was not the same kicker after he got blindsided by Jets DE Henry Anderson after a blocked FG on the last play in the 2nd half of the first meeting with the Jets. I had originally thought he suffered a hip pointer injury which could make kicking very difficult & painful which certainly affected his effectiveness the rest of the season. Looking back, there is reasonable questions on whether the Bills should have brought a different kicker in while Hauschka healed. But, as Hauschka is a veteran, he has learned how to take care of his body and with time and rest, this should not affect him going into this season. However, if he starts to slip, they team may want to move in a younger direction.
Overall, I expect Hauschka & Ferguson to be on the 2019 Bills roster with a fierce battle at the punter position taking place. Technically, Hauschka does have competition with UDFA K Chase McLaughlin, but it would take a horrendous preseason for McLaughlin to unseat the veteran. This should be a much improved unit with new ST coach Heath Farwell taking the reins and improving the overall special teams units in order to overcome the shortcomings that cost the Bills games last season.
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