Friday, October 25, 2013

Leonhard defends Bills' struggling punt coverage


Jim Leonhard knows a thing or two about the philosophy and execution of a special teams unit. He's been immersed in it for nearly a decade.

So while it may be easy to look at Buffalo's struggling punt coverage squad and say it's needs a personnel change — players or coach — the veteran return man isn't ready to jump to conclusions.

"It’s not like we can say we’ve got the wrong guys out there or we don’t have the right personnel. That’s not the case. Every kick is different," Leonhard said this week, via Chris Brown of "If you get one or two guys who make a mistake on a kick it can be out the gate."

The Bills' unit is currently ranked 28th in return yards allowed at 12.5 per attempt, which includes a 79-yard punt return by Travis Benjamin and the Browns in Week 5. The 325 total yards allowed on punts is second only to a deplorable Giants unit, which has allowed more than 400.

Wide receiver Marcus Easley, a rare bright spot in the Bills' coverage squad, told Brown not one person's to blame for the woes; it's an issue everyone needs to work on. 

"I think it’s just accountability, it’s on everybody," Easley said. "It’s myself; I haven’t made every tackle up to this point. So I’ve got to make those plays down the field. I’m sure at times it’s been on the punter, I’m sure other times it’s on the inside guys."

While Easley hasn't made every tackle thus far, he's made the lion's share of them. According to Brown, Easley has allowed a mere 4.1 yards per return on his eight stops in punt coverage. And as a gunner on kickoffs he's been even stronger, currently leading the league in special teams tackles. 

Buffalo will try to up its game this weekend against a mainly untested New Orleans unit. The Saints kick return squad has fielded only nine kickoffs so far, averaging less than 20 yards per return (30th). The team's seen a bit more action in the punt return game, averaging 8.3 yards on 15 attempts.

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