The Buffalo Bills had plenty of ups and downs in their Special Teams play this past season.
Buffalo's punt and kick coverage was sporatic, and probably cost the Bills a game or two. Buffalo's punt coverage against the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime was exposed, allowing the Bengals to get into field goal range to seal the game. Buffalo also saw their kickoff coverage get exposed in their final game of the season against New England, when LaGarrette Blount gashed them twice for big returns.
While Buffalo experienced some lows in their coverage units, there were some highs for their Special Teams unit. Brian Moorman was back in Buffalo and was still punting as well as Bills fans could hope for. Marcus Easley played well on the kickoff coverage unit, despite some of Buffalo's letdowns. Then, there was the injury to field goal kicker Dustin Hopkins. Hopkins was considered the future of Buffalo's kicking game with his strong leg. He was thought so highly of by Buffalo's coaching staff that they let Rian Lindell go in free agency. But with Hopkins eventually on injured reserve with a groin injury, the Bills turned to Dan Carpenter, who turned out to be an unsung hero for Buffalo's field goal unit.
Carpenter hit 33-of-36 field goals, good for 91.7 percent, while converting on all 32 extra point attempts. His longest conversion was a 55-yard attempt against Carolina at home. Carpenter also helped the Bills beat his former team, the Miami Dolphins, with a late field goal that put Buffalo ahead in the game. The only true knock on Carpenter this season could be his kickoffs, where he only forced 34 touchbacks. The thinking moving forward, after seeing how accurate Carpenter has been for Buffalo, may be to have two kickers on the roster. Hopkins can take over the kickoff duty, while Carpenter and his reliable leg could continue to own the field goal responsibilities.
While the season as a whole has been disappointing for the Bills, there have been plenty of bright spots to suggest the future could hold good things for Buffalo. Carpenter and his reliability could be an important piece of the puzzle moving forward.
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