23 - Who will be the primary returner?

Posted Jul 5, 2017

The special teams coordinator might be the same, but with a host of new candidates and a new head coach, the primary return role is up for grabs.

23 - Who will be the primary returner? 

Camp Countdown presented by M&T Bank will examine some of the more pressing issues facing the team on the field as they make their final preparations for the regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We’ll address these subjects one at a time until training camp begins. Here now is the latest daily installment as we carefully probe for some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 27th and the Sept. 10th opener at New Era Field against the New York Jets.

As the Bills head into training camp, there is an open competition on special teams at the returner position. Let’s take a look at some of the main guys who took reps during OTA’s and minicamp. They will be the players to keep an eye on as we approach the regular season. 

Micah Hyde
The Bills went out in the offseason to sign veteran safety, Micah Hyde. While he is projected to start on defense, Hyde is a versatile player and has shown that throughout his career.

During his time in Green Bay, he was a contributor on special teams in the early years of his career. In the four years, he has returned 34 kicks for 814 yards while averaging 23.9 yards per return. Hyde even has experience returning punts as well where he has 76 returns for 738 yards and three touchdowns.

While Hyde may not be the front-runner, he provides experience and depth. He has just a good shot as the others. Versatility is something that coach McDermott has repeatedly stated as important throughout his time in Buffalo and Hyde is an example of that.

“I think special teams is key. I’ve always been a special teams guy and I don’t think that is ever going to change,” Hyde said. “Projections are one thing but at the end of the day, I know what I need to do to get on this field. Whether its special teams or defense, it doesn’t matter.” 

Rashad Ross
The Bills recently signed wide out, Rashad Ross. At the University of Arizona State’s pro day, Ross ran a 4.36 second 40-yard dash time which is very good. Being a receiver and having speed like that gives him a solid skill set to be a return man in the NFL. 

While with the Washington Redskins in 2015, he was able to return 28 kicks for 684 yards, averaging 24.4 per return and scoring one touchdown. While Ross may not have the most experience, he will have a chance to make an impact on this Bills team during training camp. 

Brandon Tate
Wide receiver, Brandon Tate, has the most experience returning kicks on the roster. It all started during his colligate days at the University of North Carolina where Tate joined an impressive list on the ACC’s all-time kickoff return list. Tate returned 109 kicks during his career at UNC, third most all-time in the ACC. He is also third all-time in the ACC for kick off return yards with 2,688.

Throughout his eight-year career, the veteran has played with the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills.  Returning kicks has been his forte. Through the eight years, Tate has amassed 5,342 return yards averaging 24.4 per return while scoring two touchdowns. The wide out also has a ton of experience returning punts as well where he has 180 career returns for 1,716 yards and two touchdowns.

While Brandon may have the most experience, he does not believe that he has a lock on the job.

“It’s a brand new year. New coach, new start. Just got to take it like it is. It’s the first offseason with this staff. So, just one day at a time.” Tate said. 

Tre’Davious White
While Bills first-round pick, Tre’Davious White, projects to be an immediate contributor on the defensive side of the ball, he also brings some talent to the special teams side. Given his speed and athleticism, it makes sense why he could be a potential fit for the return man position.

While at LSU, White played a premier role on their special teams unit. He contributed by returning punts from his sophomore season until his senior season. He was an efficient returner where he averaged 10.0 yards per return for three touchdowns. Even though White is projected to play heavily on defense, the potential for added duty on special teams doesn’t faze the rookie.

“I’m a football player. Coming from LSU, they took special teams very seriously. If you started at LSU, you started on special teams. I’m used to that. I want to be on the field. I feel like if I’m on the field, I can help a team win.” White said.