1 - Bills special teams are most-improved in 2017
Time after time, head coach Sean McDermott stressed the importance of winning all three phases of the game. That includes special teams, which often gets swept under the rug. McDermott's mantra paid off, as Buffalo's special teams went from 24th-best in 2016 to seventh-best in 2017.
The Bills were seventh in Rick Gosselin's highly-regarded special teams rankings. The top-seven included: The Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City, New England, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, and Buffalo.
Here's Gosselin's take on the Bills seeing the biggest single-season improvement on special teams.
The Buffalo Bills charted the best single-season improvement under new head coach Sean McDermott, a leap of 17 spots from 24th in 2016 to seventh in 2017. The signing of free-agent kicker Stephen Hauschka paid dividends for the Bills. He kicked 29 of 33 field goals, including a league-high seven from 50 yards or more.
Buffalo ranked in the top-five in a variety of Gosselin's categories.
In punting, the Bills ranked third in opponent punting (43.06 yards), fourth in opponent NET punting (38.0 yards), and fifth in punt coverage (5.5 yards).
The kicking game was top-notch too. The Bills, along with five other teams, finished the season 100-percent at extra points. Also, Buffalo was one of nine teams to not have a kick blocked this season.
Hats off to McDermott for making this unit one of the best in the NFL after being one of the worst just a year ago. Danny Crossman deserves some praise as well. He's served as the team's special teams coordinator for the past five seasons.
2 - Daboll and McDermott discuss their W&M days
They first connected over 20 years ago at the College of William and Mary. Now, head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will be reunited on the sidelines in Buffalo.
It was 1997 when Daboll and McDermott first stepped foot on the football field together. Daboll, at 22-years-old, was in his first season as a restricted-earnings coach at W&M. McDermott, who was 23-years-old, was a fifth-year senior at safety for the Tribe.
The two coaches reminisced about those days together now 22 years in the rearview mirro.
"He was a fifth-year senior at William and Mary and he was a pretty good player too. We had a relationship there, but it was more of a professional relationship. We never worked together. You see each other whether it's at the Senior Bowl or the Combine. But it wasn't a long term working relationship," said Daboll. "But I have a fondness for him in terms of what he's done in the league. How he approaches things and his leadership style. I've only spent a short time around him, but I've been really impressed."
"You know, we have a personal relationship just because of the connection back at William & Mary years ago," said McDermott. "I was a player, it was my senior year and Brian was in his first year of coaching. We've just stayed in touch over the years, more on a professional level and we've rubbed elbows at different things [like] the Senior Bowl [or] the Combine."
After the 1997 season at W&M the two continued to pursue their careers in coaching. In 1998, Daboll made the move to Michigan State as a graduate assistant. For McDermott, he stayed put at W&M and was also a graduate assistant in 1998. By 2000, the pair each had positions in the NFL.
The two coaches each have nearly 20 years experience in the league. It's safe to say they've had some solid mentors to help them reach this point in their careers.
"Sean grew up under Andy [Reid] and I grew up under Bill [Belichick] and those are two great mentors to have. We've spent some time in this league together, not working together, but under some really good guys," said Daboll. "Look, I've got a tremendous amount of respect for Sean and how he handled things in his first year as a head football coach and then talking to him last week or whenever it was, it just felt like the right fit."
3 - LSU WR on Tre': The type of teammate you want
There are a couple of Louisiana State University seniors at the Senior Bowl who are close with Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White. One of those players is LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark, who inherited the punt return job from White in 2017.
Chark was asked by buffalobills.com if White would be impressed with his return skills.
"I think he'd be happy, but still tell me I need a lot more work. I think I still have a lot more practice to do on it," said Chark. "I'm not on his level yet, but I think if I put in a good amount of work I can do that."
White spent three seasons as LSU's punt return man. In those years, he recorded 69 returns for 688 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 10 yards per return in his college career.
For Chark, he took over in 2017 after White's departure. On 18 returns he had 190 yards and two TDs. He averaged just over 10 yards per return and did a nice job taking over for White.
Just like White was last year, Chark's currently at the Senior Bowl. He mentioned the tips he's received from White and former LSU players.
"LSU is a brotherhood. So I've talked to him. I've talked to Leonard [Fournette], Jamal [Adams], [Davon] Godchaux, all those guys," said Chark. "The biggest thing he told me was to continue to work hard every day. It sounds like something everybody would tell you, but that's the main thing."
Chark's put together a respectable showing so far at the Senior Bowl. He's received some recognition on Twitter for his skills at WR.
It wouldn't be easy, but Chark would love to emulate White's rookie campaign.
"Definitely. I love his personality. I felt like it was the first time the world got to see his personality and it brightens up everybody's day," he said. "That's the type of person that he is and that's the type of teammate that you want."
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