By Tim Graham
As a special-teamer, Brad Smith is known for making big returns.
He's pretty good at stopping them, too.
Overlooked in Smith's repertoire is his effectiveness as a safety valve on Buffalo Bills coverage units. Analytics site FootballOutsiders.com noted Wednesday that Smith made three touchdown-saving tackles on punt returns that broke for more than 20 yards.
Smith is a quarterback/receiver/Wildcat running back. Last year, he ran 14 times for 116 yards and a touchdown and caught 14 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged an impressive 27.6 yards per kickoff return and brought one back for a TD.
But he has been a core-four special-teamer since he turned pro.
"I take pride in what I'm asked to do every time I step on the field," Smith told me after Wednesday's workout at One Bills Drive. "I love making tackles. I love blocking for my guys, blocking for" Leodis McKelvin.
Under former special-teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven, Smith was asked to hang back on coverage units to read how a return breaks and "be in position to shut them down."
FootballOutsiders.com posted its breakdown of special-teams tackles, which are not official NFL stats. The site tracks return tackles (straightforward) and return stops (tackles made after a return shorter than a metric projects).
Smith led the Bills with 12 special-teams tackles, but only four were considered stops because of the role he played.
Smith might have trouble making the team this year because of all those rookie receivers the Bills have harvested.
The Bills also reinvested in McKelvin by re-signing him to a four-year contract extension worth a little over $20 million and likely will want him returning kicks, further mitigating Smith's existence.
taggedBrad Smith | Leodis McKelvin