Niagara Gazette

August 18, 2009

TIM'S TAKE: Bills special teams haven't been special

COMMENTARY

By Tim Schmitt

Time to clear out the notebook after giving the DVR a serious workout on Saturday’s Bills-Bears game.

• I’m one of those radicals who thought the Bills should’ve canned Dick Jauron and slid special teams coach Bobby April into the top slot. April’s units are always among the league’s best and more important, he seems in command and forward-thinking. But this year, we’ll find out what he’s really made of. The special teams were dreadful on Saturday, at least early on when those who are likely to play were in the game. The Bears came clean on the Bills first punt and should have blocked it. Later, the same unit had a high snap that could have been deadly in a regular-season game. Add in Dominic Rhodes’ muffed punt — which gave the Bears the ball in Buffalo territory — and you’ve got plenty to work on this week in practice. And with the Bills proving in the past their margin of error is already slim, a few special teams goofs could prove too much for Buffalo to overcome.

• Let’s hope Marcus Stroud has another gear he’s waiting to kick into for opening day. Stroud played just two series, hardly crossing the line of scrimmage — even on pass plays. Granted, he’s often the guy opponents choose to double, but he showed absolutely nothing that would imply he’s ready to make an impact this season. Course, opening day probably isn’t the day we should worry about — it was the only time last year when he looked like a Pro Bowler.

• It’s great to see Brad Butler hold his blocks, but if the Bills’ new right tackle takes even one personal foul penalty for hitting a linebacker or safety who’s simply watching the end of a tackle, his chippy attitude will have proven counter-productive.

• The coaching staff must see a flaw that I’m missing in Alvin Bowen. The second-year guy sat out all last season after a devastating knee injury, but has shown size and speed in time with the team’s second linebacking corps. The Bills pull him out on third downs, though, keeping Marcus Buggs and rookie Nic Harris on the field. I realize it’s a positional thing, but with his range, I’m surprised they haven’t found a way to keep him in the action.

• The no-huddle is great, but the Bills had a tendency to put themselves in bad personnel matchups because of it on Saturday. For example, Roscoe Parrish was in the slot on a third down that the Bills converted, then stayed there in the no-huddle for a first-down running play. Watching the 160-pound receiver blocking a 225-pound safety wasn’t pretty.

• As for the rest of the division, sorry if I’m not sold on one-hit wonder Miami. The Dolphins showed little in their preseason opener, and you get the feeling teams will be ready this year, no matter what trick offense the Fins devise.

Our Maxim intern, Tiger and more

Do we know how to pick ‘em here or what? Former Niagara Gazette sports intern Kelly Lovering, who penned a recreation column called “Give it a Go,” made the Buffalo Jills this year and was featured in a photo spread at Maxim.com. It’s not surprising — she was always at least one of the three best-looking members of the sports department, battling Nate Beutel and Bill McGrath for the crown. ... Freddy Garcia got a start in the bigs last night with the White Sox, which is hilarious considering he wasn’t good enough to stick with a really bad team in Buffalo earlier this summer. While with the Bisons, Garcia lost both of his two starts and posted an 8.18 earned run average. ... Plenty has been made about Tiger’s tanking at the PGA, but it’s all overblown. Woods got himself in decent position most of the day, but he uncharacteristically read putts too high all day long. Think he’ll be motivated to play the Masters next spring?

Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.