Though the Bills finished seventh in the league in average drive start off kickoffs, it was frustrating to watch Buffalo's return men take a knee for a touchback in the end zone. Not that the approach was wrong. In 2011, 44 percent of kicks returned from inside the end zone at any depth failed to reach the 20-yard line. Taking a knee, though far from exciting, was the prudent practice.
What Buffalo's GM and head coach wanted however, was the ability to force their opponents into touchbacks as much as they were last season. It's the main reason the Bills chose kicker John Potter in round seven.
"This guy is a kickoff guy," said Nix. "He kicked through the uprights kicking off. If you kick the ball in the end zone and make them start on the 20 it gives you a much better chance defensively."
DeHaven has had a kickoff specialist before. During Scott Norwood's last season in Buffalo (1991) DeHaven also had the strong-legged Brad Daluiso.
"He'd put it six or seven rows into the stands sometimes if there was any wind at his back," said DeHaven. "If a guy has that kind of leg it can be a tremendous weapon."
In the NFL any kickoff with four seconds of hang time is considered good. Anything over 4.3 seconds is considered exceptional. DeHaven said some of Potter's hang times went beyond that.
"I had him with some hang times of 4.6, which is very, very good," DeHaven said. "Buddy is right, he puts kickoffs through the uprights and in college they kick it from the 30-yard line. Up here he's going to have five extra yards kicking from the 35."
"I think any team that can consistently kick it out (of the end zone) saves you from good returners," said Potter. "So I think I can really provide something to the Buffalo Bills."
Naturally the challenge is finding a spot for Potter not only on the 53-man roster, but as one of the 46 active players on game day. But if Potter proves effective removing the threat of any return will carry a lot of weight.
"If we can make them start at the 20-yard line every time I know it'll make Dave Wannstedt real happy."