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Bills Today: New special teams coordinator earns praise from this Bills veteran

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1 - New special teams coordinator earns praise from this Bills veteran

Buffalo added a Super Bowl-winning linebacker to its coaching staff last week.

The Bills hired Heath Farwell, a prolific special teamer who played in the NFL from 2005-2014, as their special teams coordinator on Friday. Farwell, who served as a captain for Seattle in its Super Bowl-winning 2013 campaign, joined the Seahawks’ coaching staff as a special team assistant in 2016.

After showing promise in Seattle, Farwell left the Emerald City to join the Panthers’ brass in 2018. Familiar with the system in place in Carolina, Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott looked at the Panthers’ staff when tasked with filling his special teams coordinator vacancy. The Bills identified Farwell as their target, handing the reins of their special teams unit over to the 37-year-old.

Buffalo’s roster is excited about Farwell’s arrival. Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who played on 39 percent of the Bills’ special teams snaps last season, has crossed paths with Farwell in the past. Given his experience as both a player and assistant coach, Alexander feels as though Farwell will be a successful coordinator.

“I think the biggest thing is that he’s been an assistant, so he’s been falling in line with whoever has set the tone and standard for that core, in special teams meetings and setting standards for players,” Alexander said. “Now he has to develop who he is as a coordinator, and that’s kind of a growing process. Some guys, I think, have a better understanding of what that is. I think he will do a good job because he’s played. I played against him, probably one of the best players that I’ve competed against, really good core guy.

“I think also having [assistant special teams coach Matthew] Smiley here, I called him Smiley, Coach Smiley from last year, I think will also help him, having a guy that’s been here, knows the guys, to really help him kind of grow his scheme and grow who he is and how he wants to set the tone for his position group.”

2 - NFL Network analyst compares Josh Allen to this Pro Bowler

He saved his best outing of the season for last.

Josh Allen capped off a rookie season in which he showed consistent development with a fantastic Week 17 performance. He accounted for 319 yards and five touchdowns in Buffalo’s 42-17 rout of the Dolphins, leaving Buffalo fans with hope and optimism entering the offseason.

It’s fitting that Allen’s best outing came in Week 17, as the rookie improved each and every week throughout the season. As the campaign progressed, Allen’s decision making improved, his reads and passes becoming more accurate. Allen also utilized his athleticism in the second half of the season, rushing for 476 yards over the final seven games of the year.

According to NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger, Allen’s raw physical tools are second to none. The former NFL offensive lineman feels as though the 22-year-old improved as the 2018 season progressed.

“I think there’s just a big clump of clay to work with,” Baldinger said during a recent appearance on One Bills Live. “He’s just incredibly talented. In those last six games, he was 3-3 as a starter. I thought he played good, complementary football. I thought he did a good job of taking care of the football down the stretch for the most part.

“He’s an elite athlete, the way that he can run the ball. The command that he has, I see teams trying to spy him and do all kinds of things to keep him in the pocket, it didn’t do any good at all. Miami was just helpless in trying to stop him in the two games they played. I thought that he got better.”

Though Baldinger feels as though Allen has room to grow as a passer, he sees shades of Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz in the Wyoming product.

“He’s every bit the athlete that Carson Wentz is,” Baldinger said. “I think Carson’s the more polished passer right now, but he also just finished his thirds season, too. When you watch Carson Wentz throw it and move and his escapability, I mean he doesn’t run like Josh Allen right now, but that’s because he’s a little more comfortable staying in there and making his reads quicker and earlier and faster, but I think that you could make that comparison right now.”

3 - PFF: Levi Wallace finishes 2018 as Top 5 CB

He didn’t receive an opportunity to start until Week 10 of his rookie season.

Waiting for a chance to make an impact was nothing new for Levi Wallace, however. The walk-on-turned-starter at Alabama had always been doubted. Once he finally received an opportunity to start in the NFL, he seized it, playing at a high level that earned national praise.

The undrafted cornerback started the final seven games of Buffalo’s 2018 season, tallying 37 tackles and three pass deflections. Though not flashy, Wallace was reliable, often excelling against the run and in coverage.

According to Pro Football Focus, few cornerbacks were more reliable than Wallace last season. His overall grade of 85.3 was the fourth-highest amongst all cornerbacks with at least 175 coverage snaps.

Wallace finished the campaign with the league’s best yards per coverage snap average, giving up just 0.45 yards per snap. He gave up a reception on just one out of every 20.7 coverage snaps, the second-highest average in the NFL.

Wallace also finished the campaign as PFF’s highest-graded rookie cornerback, usurping Cleveland defensive back Denzel Ward with a strong Week 17 outing. Albeit in a limited sample size, Wallace impressed in the 2018 season, establishing himself as a piece that Buffalo can pencil into its secondary for the foreseeable future.

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