Throughout Sean McDermott’s tenure as the head coach of the Bills, he’s always mentioned there are three phases to NFL games. The former defensive coordinator knows that offense is just as important as his bread and butter, however, McDermott never overlooks special teams.
At this time of the year, that’s something that’s important to remember.
Eventually McDermott and his coaching staff will have to make cuts. Players who have an ability to play special teams at a high level always seem to have a leg up on the competition. In that regard, Darryl Johnson is a name to keep in mind.
Johnson sits near the bottom of Buffalo’s defensive end depth chart. That’s what happens when your team uses its first two picks at the draft on pass rushers. However, Johnson remains at the top of the special teams pecking order.
Plenty of praise was tossed Johnson’s name this week at Bills training camp as well. At special teams coordinator Heath Farwell press conference, Johnson was a focal point.
“He’s a huge man running down on kickoffs running as fast as linebackers. You don’t see big guys running down the field like that,” Farwell said.
But teams need more than one player that can contribute. Enter linebacker Tyler Matakevich. He knows the third phase of football better than most, and Matakevich knows how good Johnson is at it, too.
“His size, I remember when we played (the Bills) when I was in Pitt and when you get the scouting report you see the size of the dude and you’re watching him on film and you’re like, ‘damn, how the heck and I going to block this 6-6 guy?’” Matakevich said.
“Every team, they’ve got to double him. I know he gets frustrated at times, he’s like ‘man, I’m getting doubled,’ but shoot, that is just as important as making the tackle,” Matakevich added.
How the Bills handle Johnson when selecting their final roster will speak volumes. If he’s kept, that will show how much McDermott and his coaching staff respect the special teams aspect of the game because the Bills just have so many bodies along the entire defensive line.
In keeping Johnson, could Buffalo end up rostering 10… even 11 players along the D-line? Or does someone else have to be cut? Time will tell how that shakes out, but Farwell shed light on exactly how the Bills think things would go if Johnson is waived.
“Pre-game when I talk to the other coordinators he’s the first guy that they bring up. It’s a mismatch having a guy that big and that fast running down the field, he’s just a huge factor they have to account for,” Farwell said.
At minimum, Farwell would likely tell you he thinks that Johnson would get picked up by another team, perhaps the Bills try to avoid that at all costs.