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What makes Robert Foster a good "Gunner"? The stat-poor world of special teams.

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I have read on this board and heard on broadcasts that Robert Foster is a good "Gunner" on special teams, so I decided to go stat hunting online and found..............mostly nothing.  This year Robert Foster has 5 tackles and NO OTHER special teams stats available.  I readily admit that 5 tackles is pretty much a meaningless stat, because it's a lousy way to measure ST performance.  On ST defense it's important to get down field quickly to force fair catches, clog return lanes and take out blockers.  On ST offense, it's creating the wedge (or what's left of it in the modern NFL) and clearing lanes for the return guy.  All valid special teams skills, but all pretty difficult to measure and quantify.  Are there advanced analytics or film breakdowns anywhere that look at this?  I know there are many smaller sports media outlets that do all 22 reviews and would love to see a breakdown of what a "good" gunner does.  

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He's made a few good tackles on special teams. Question you should ask is who replaces Foster as a gunner. Our special teams isn't very good in the 1st place. A big return can change the game.

 

We'll see what they do. I think Williams will get a chance. People have to remember though that Mckenzie is the 3rd WR on the team snap wise, not Foster. Mckenzie likely still plays his 50% or so of snaps. Does Williams get Mckenzies snaps? Probably not. So does it make sense to bench your gunner so Williams sits on the bench 85% of the offensive snaps?

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2 minutes ago, Buffalo_Stampede said:

He's made a few good tackles on special teams. Question you should ask is who replaces Foster as a gunner. Our special teams isn't very good in the 1st place. A big return can change the game.

 

We'll see what they do. I think Williams will get a chance. People have to remember though that Mckenzie is the 3rd WR on the team snap wise, not Foster. Mckenzie likely still plays his 50% or so of snaps. Does Williams get Mckenzies snaps? Probably not. So does it make sense to bench your gunner so Williams sits on the bench 85% of the offensive snaps?


As much as I want to see Duke active, this is probably exactly how the coaches view it....and I can’t necessarily argue with it. 

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1 minute ago, Buffalo_Stampede said:

He's made a few good tackles on special teams. Question you should ask is who replaces Foster as a gunner. Our special teams isn't very good in the 1st place. A big return can change the game.

 

We'll see what they do. I think Williams will get a chance. People have to remember though that Mckenzie is the 3rd WR on the team snap wise, not Foster. Mckenzie likely still plays his 50% or so of snaps. Does Williams get Mckenzies snaps? Probably not. So does it make sense to bench your gunner so Williams sits on the bench 85% of the offensive snaps?

I tried to word this so it would not become another "Duke Williams" post, bit have clearly failed.  I am interested in actual answers pertaining to special teams.  "Foster had some good (5) tackles" is not the depth of explanation I was hoping for.

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3 minutes ago, Buffalo_Stampede said:

He's made a few good tackles on special teams. Question you should ask is who replaces Foster as a gunner. Our special teams isn't very good in the 1st place. A big return can change the game.

 

We'll see what they do. I think Williams will get a chance. People have to remember though that Mckenzie is the 3rd WR on the team snap wise, not Foster. Mckenzie likely still plays his 50% or so of snaps. Does Williams get Mckenzies snaps? Probably not. So does it make sense to bench your gunner so Williams sits on the bench 85% of the offensive snaps?

Excellent point. If we want all of these reps for our 3rd, 4th, 5th WRs, it will mean taking our TEs and/or RB off the field. Our OL isn't strong enough yet to not have a TE on the field potentially helping block, and our passing game is not efficient enough to take our RB off the field, making it obvious we will be passing.

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Just now, ChicagoRic said:

I tried to word this so it would not become another "Duke Williams" post, bit have clearly failed.  I am interested in actual answers pertaining to special teams.  "Foster had some good (5) tackles" is not the depth of explanation I was hoping for.


Regardless of your wording, the meaning was apparent. What other issue could you possibly have with Foster playing on ST OTHER than you want Duke Williams to play?

 

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1 minute ago, Joe in Winslow said:


Regardless of your wording, the meaning was apparent. What other issue could you possibly have with Foster playing on ST OTHER than you want Duke Williams to play?

 

Where did I say I have an issue with Foster playing special teams?  Maybe re-read the question and actually try to answer it.  Pretend for a moment that Duke Williams does not exist.  Heck, forget Robert Foster exists.  Try answering "What does a good ST Gunner look like?"

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1 minute ago, ChicagoRic said:

Where did I say I have an issue with Foster playing special teams?  Maybe re-read the question and actually try to answer it.  Pretend for a moment that Duke Williams does not exist.  Heck, forget Robert Foster exists.  Try answering "What does a good ST Gunner look like?"

 

Other than someone who stays in their lane, and maintains containment? Not entirely sure. Maybe someone who can block punts/kicks as well?

 

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Number of tackles, opposing teams yards after a fielded kick, number of fair catches, average drive start for opposition after a kick or punt. 

 

Special teams is hard to measure individually, but as a unit, the above should be easy to find for all you stat nerds. 

 

Good luck! 

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9 minutes ago, ChicagoRic said:

Where did I say I have an issue with Foster playing special teams?  Maybe re-read the question and actually try to answer it.  Pretend for a moment that Duke Williams does not exist.  Heck, forget Robert Foster exists.  Try answering "What does a good ST Gunner look like?"

Steve Tasker?

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44 minutes ago, ChicagoRic said:

I have read on this board and heard on broadcasts that Robert Foster is a good "Gunner" on special teams, so I decided to go stat hunting online and found..............mostly nothing.  This year Robert Foster has 5 tackles and NO OTHER special teams stats available.  I readily admit that 5 tackles is pretty much a meaningless stat, because it's a lousy way to measure ST performance.  On ST defense it's important to get down field quickly to force fair catches, clog return lanes and take out blockers.  On ST offense, it's creating the wedge (or what's left of it in the modern NFL) and clearing lanes for the return guy.  All valid special teams skills, but all pretty difficult to measure and quantify.  Are there advanced analytics or film breakdowns anywhere that look at this?  I know there are many smaller sports media outlets that do all 22 reviews and would love to see a breakdown of what a "good" gunner does.  

I think your best bet for an answer will come from calling into "One Bills Live" and asking Steve for his perspective and insight.

 

I know it's propaganda and all but you may have a chance to get some information while they have an opportunity to gush over Roberts (if that suits their narrative).

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22 minutes ago, ChicagoRic said:

I tried to word this so it would not become another "Duke Williams" post, bit have clearly failed.  I am interested in actual answers pertaining to special teams.  "Foster had some good (5) tackles" is not the depth of explanation I was hoping for.

 

I think what has makes Foster a "Good Gunner" is his ability to get off the jam at the line and get down field quickly to force fair catches.  That's not something that ends up in a stat book for an individual, but that's where his real value is on special teams.  If he can get off that first block and be standing next to the returner, which he does very often, then he is doing his job by preventing any return.  It helps flip the field, and takes away the big play coming back at the Bills.

 

So you're correct, 5 tackles isn't much of a stat to base anything on, but if you watch the condensed versions of the games you'll see that he has a knack for using his size and speed to get off the jam at the line and be the first guy down next to the returner to prevent them from running. Doesn't happen every time, but he's very good at it. 

 

The question is, how much MORE value does he offer in that position than other guys, and that I cannot answer. 

Edited by MR8
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Just now, MR8 said:

 

I think what has makes Foster a "Good Gunner" is his ability to get off the jam at the line and get down field quickly to force fair catches.  That's not something that ends up in a stat book for an individual, but that's where his real value is on special teams.  If he can get off that first block and be standing next to the returner, which he does very often, then he is doing his job by preventing any return.  It helps flip the field, and takes away the big play coming back at the Bills.

 

So you're correct, 5 tackles isn't much of a stat to base anything on, but if you watch the condensed versions of the games you'll see that he has a knack for using his size and speed to get off the jam at the line and be the first guy down next to the returner to prevent them from running. Doesn't happen every time, but he's very good at it. 

 

The question is, how much MORE value does he offer in that position than other guys, and that I cannot answer. 

I don't know who was playing his special teams position while he was hurt or inactive. Does anyone know? Our best special teams player is Siran Neal IMO. 

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19 minutes ago, Joe in Winslow said:

 

Other than someone who stays in their lane, and maintains containment? Not entirely sure. Maybe someone who can block punts/kicks as well?

 

 

You're making the OP's point for him.  How is "stays in their lane" and "maintains containment" measured?  Where are those stats?  How do our gunner(s) compare to other teams'?  And gunners don't block punts or kicks

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Just now, cage said:

 

You're making the OP's point for him.  How is "stays in their lane" and "maintains containment" measured?  Where are those stats.  And gunners don't block punts or kicks

 

Great! Happy to be of assistance.

 

But what's the OP's actual point? Everybody knows they don't really record ST stats.

 

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2 minutes ago, Joe in Winslow said:

 

Great! Happy to be of assistance.

 

But what's the OP's actual point? Everybody knows they don't really record ST stats.

 

 

That's his point.  If ST is 1/3 of the game, why isn't there more comprehensive stats measuring the key roles like there are on Offense and Defense.  Surprised that there's not a more sophisticated way to track whether/why Robert Foster is a good gunner.  

Edited by cage

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45 minutes ago, Buffalo_Stampede said:

He's made a few good tackles on special teams. Question you should ask is who replaces Foster as a gunner. Our special teams isn't very good in the 1st place. A big return can change the game.

 

We'll see what they do. I think Williams will get a chance. People have to remember though that Mckenzie is the 3rd WR on the team snap wise, not Foster. Mckenzie likely still plays his 50% or so of snaps. Does Williams get Mckenzies snaps? Probably not. So does it make sense to bench your gunner so Williams sits on the bench 85% of the offensive snaps?

 

In theory, it's possible they look at a different area of the roster or a different player and carry an extra WR.  I don't see us benching either McKensie (he's our reserve CB LOL) or Foster.

 

It's also possible that Roberts will not be able to go.  McDermott is not exactly forthcoming on players injuries.

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16 minutes ago, cage said:

 

That's his point.  If ST is 1/3 of the game, why isn't there more comprehensive stats measuring the key roles like there are on Offense and Defense.  Surprised that there's not a more sophisticated way to track whether/why Robert Foster is a good gunner.  

Typically we only get advanced stats for special teams as a unit not individual players. Maybe someone does break down individual special team stats. Return game has been weakened because of NFL rules. I remember Bobby April really changed the game plus safety changes. April had blocking schemes that that the NFL banned.

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59 minutes ago, Buffalo_Stampede said:

He's made a few good tackles on special teams. Question you should ask is who replaces Foster as a gunner. Our special teams isn't very good in the 1st place. A big return can change the game.

 

We'll see what they do. I think Williams will get a chance. People have to remember though that Mckenzie is the 3rd WR on the team snap wise, not Foster. Mckenzie likely still plays his 50% or so of snaps. Does Williams get Mckenzies snaps? Probably not. So does it make sense to bench your gunner so Williams sits on the bench 85% of the offensive snaps?


that’s why I think if they activate Duke, they have to make him a good part of the game plan. 

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57 minutes ago, Joe in Winslow said:

 

Other than someone who stays in their lane, and maintains containment? Not entirely sure. Maybe someone who can block punts/kicks as well?

 

Who does that on the Bills? No one- I think we had 1 tipped fg that caused a miss. Our Special Teams does nothing special. When is the last time we blocked a punt, took a return to the house etc..?

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The same thing that they think makes him a good WR his speed but to this point we haven't seen anything other than his speed because he's not making a difference when on the field ...

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1 minute ago, T master said:

The same thing that they think makes him a good WR his speed but to this point we haven't seen anything other than his speed because he's not making a difference when on the field ...

He's been open. Eye in the sky don't lie.

Edited by Buffalo_Stampede
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The key to being a great gunner is to turn your back right before they block you to draw the block in the back penalty

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48 minutes ago, Joe in Winslow said:

 

Other than someone who stays in their lane, and maintains containment? Not entirely sure. Maybe someone who can block punts/kicks as well?

 

 

That's pretty much it. Unless PFF has a rating....

 

I guess you could watch every ST play, and grade his performance on each one, then grade the overall ST performance by the unit on each play that he's in for, and compare that to their performance without said player, and come to a reasonable conclusion on the player's effect on ST.

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