Fifty Shades of Gray: Analyzing The Bills’ Running Backs

Eight. That is the number of running backs the Buffalo Bills have on their roster heading into offseason workouts. This running back room is insanely crowded and only three to four of them will make the final squad that heads to Metlife to play the Jets week one. Let’s take a minute to dive into each one of Buffalo’s backs.

LeSean McCoy

Ever since being traded to the Bills in the summer of 2015, McCoy has been the starter in Buffalo and that doesn’t look like it will change in 2019. Last summer, McCoy was surrounded by speculation regarding his age, as he recently turned 30 (he will turn 31 before the start of 2019 training camp), and his legal trouble with an ex-girlfriend. During every press conference, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife and you could easily since McCoy’s frustration.

McCoy’s age, frustration, and his terrible offensive line all joined forces to give McCoy not only his worst statistical year in Buffalo, but his worst year of his career. McCoy only rushed for 161 attempts (his lowest since 2009) for only 514 yards, a career-low. Not to mention, only three touchdowns and only bringing in 34 receptions. It is clear that McCoy wants to put 2018 behind him and it looks like with a revamped offensive line, he will be able to do just that. In 2019, expect 2017 McCoy, who put up 1,138 yards and six touchdowns on 287 carries. I am confident with McCoy as the starter moving forward.

With the additions the Bills have made this offseason, rumors and talks of Buffalo trading McCoy have opened up. Trading McCoy solely on the grounds of his performance in 2018 is unfair because of his atrocious offensive line. Giving McCoy another year with a new and improved line is absolutely necessary. Fans and reporters alike have also pointed to the fact the Bills owe McCoy around $10 million in 2019 and getting rid of him would open up some financial flexibility. Although the price tag is steep in 2019, I genuinely believe McCoy would re-sign on a more team friendly deal next offseason. Trading McCoy now would be a mistake.

Frank Gore

The man, the myth, the legend, Frank Gore. Just when you think Gore has reached his end, he re-ups with the Bills for possibly his last season. Gore was brought in for an additional veteran presence and to push his friend and current Bills starter, LeSean McCoy. Gore will be 36 by the time training camp starts, but Bills fans can still expect some production out of him.

Last season with the Miami Dolphins, Gore racked up 722 yards on 156 carries, but failed to reach the endzone. Despite not scoring in 2018, Gore will provide offensive coordinator Brain Daboll with a second option in the run game.

TJ Yeldon

Just when we thought the Bills were done adding running backs in free agency, general manager Brandon Beane added Yeldon, the former Jacksonville Jaguar who was still available through the free agency market a month after the league year began. Yeldon has gotten lost in the Jaguars’ running back rotation through his first four years in the league, but he has produced well in those years.

Although Yeldon has not eclipsed 500 yards since 2015, when he posted 740 yards on 182 carries, he has emerged as a solid receiving back, which is likely the role he will carve out with Buffalo. An interesting note about Yeldon, is that he and rookie Devin Singeltary will be the only two backs on contract for the Bills after the 2019 season. Yeldon might not have the biggest role in 2019, but he will be a nice contrast to McCoy and Gore as well as providing fresh legs off the bench.

Devin Singletary

The 2019 third-round selection for the Bills will come into a crowded running back room but will obviously make the squad. The electric rookie runner might have the smallest role of all running backs in 2019, but head coach Sean McDermott might turn to Singletary to be one of the top guys in 2020. Singletary is an explosive young back and was dubbed the “funnest rookie to watch” by Beane.

Singletary put up 4,287 yards and 66 touchdowns in his three years at FAU and looks to transfer those numbers into the pros. He will most definitely enjoy learning from two future Hall of Famers in Gore and McCoy and even if he does not play much in 2019, I am confident he takes the league by storm in 2020.

Marcus Murphy

Murphy has been with Buffalo since he joined the Bills as a late-season free agent signing in 2017, as McCoy sustained a few injuries towards the end of the season. Murphy impressed McDermott and earned a spot on the 2018 squad. After having a minor role in Brian Daboll’s offense and making little impact when he did get on the field makes me believe we will not see Murphy in a Bills uniform in 2019.

Murphy posted 250 yards on 52 carries in 2018, which apparently has not warranted him a spot on the team moving forward. If someone outside of McCoy, Gore, Yeldon, and Singletary made the roster in 2019, I believe it would be Murphy. The familiarity of the offensive scheme and his special team abilities make him the likeliest player to make the roster of the guys on the outside looking in.

Senorise Perry

Perry has had an interesting career thus far and he actually did not have a rush attempt in 2018. It was made clear very early that the Bills are primarily interested in Perry’s special team abilities. It would be a stretch for Perry to make the roster. If Perry could outshine Murphy in terms of special teams, he might have a better chance.

Christian Wade

Out of all the newly acquired running backs, Wade is certainly the most interesting. Wade was assigned to Buffalo by the International Player Pathway Program. Wade played rugby in the UK for years before retiring from rugby in 2018 to pursue a career in the NFL. He might be a sleeper to make the roster, but since he is technically a rookie, he may be eligible for the practice squad. If he is practice squad eligible, Wade would be a great weapon to keep in the back pocket of the Bills.

Keith Ford

If there was a guy on this 90-man roster that was a definitive cut, it would be Ford. The running back room is entirely too crowded with talented backs for Ford to even come close to making the roster. Ford went undrafted in 2018 out of Texas A&M. He spent most of 2018 on the practice squad, but McDermott sought to get rookies some playing time after Buffalo was eliminated from playoff contention. Unfortunately for Ford, the addition of Wade may also ruin his chances of making the practice squad. Ford recorded 79 yards on 21 carries in his rookie season, likely not enough to get him close to a roster spot.

Overview

The best move for the Bills in 2019 would be to keep four running backs on their 53-man roster. Buffalo should hang on to McCoy, Gore, Yeldon, and Singletary to provide a unique running attack. All four backs provide the Bills with different skill sets and could perform like the Patriots’ running back group. With McCoy likely to re-sign in 2020 and Gore likely to retire, Yeldon and Singletary would be left with bigger roles after this initial year. If the Bills can hang on to all four of these guys, they will have something special in 2019.

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