Bills Position Battle Breakdown And Analysis: Running Back

July 7, 2022
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The Buffalo Bills’ last two campaigns have both ended in heartbreak. 

After a 13-3 regular season in 2020, the Bills were knocked out by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship. 

In 2021, Buffalo was favored to win the Super Bowl going into the season but finished with an 11-6 record. The Bills then lost to the Chiefs again, this time in overtime during the Divisional Round following a chaotic final two minutes of regulation. Despite these unfortunate turn of events last year, the top contender to raise the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl 75 still remains the Buffalo Bills

While the Bills are set at the quarterback and wide receiver positions heading into 2022, the running back position is more up for grabs with Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Duke Johnson, James Cook, Raheem Blackshear, and Taiwan Jones all on the roster.

Singletary, Moss, and Jones are the veterans on the team, with Jones being a mainstay on special teams as well. Johnson signed a one-year deal this offseason, while Cook and Blackshear are both rookies. 

Singletary has been the starter in Buffalo since the back half of his rookie season, but the Bills could look to move in a different direction this year. 

Bills Position Showdown

Running Back Battle 

Let’s take Jones out of the conversation for the running back battle, as he’s had a combined five snaps on offense over the last two seasons and 515 snaps on special teams. That leaves us with five running backs fighting for the starting spot.

The Veterans

Singletary emerged as Buffalo’s starting running back as a rookie in 2019 and has held onto it since, even after the Bills drafted Moss in 2020. There have always been questions about whether Singletary would be replaced, however, as he doesn’t jump off the page. 

In 2021, Singletary rushed for 870 yards and seven touchdowns and had 40 catches for 228 receiving yards and a touchdown, setting career-highs in carries, yards, touchdowns, and catches. He’s one of the more undersized running backs in the NFL at 5-foot-7, however, and he was also second in fumbles by running backs with five. 

Moss joined Singletary in the Buffalo backfield in 2020, but he also doesn’t pop as an every-down starter. In 2021, Moss finished with 345 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 96 carries along with 23 catches for 197 receiving yards and one touchdown, serving as more of a complementary option to Singletary.

Johnson is the veteran newcomer on the roster after signing with the Bills during the offseason. Johnson became the primary running back for the Miami Dolphins down the stretch, racking up 330 rushing yards on 71 carries over five games and twice exceeding 100 rushing yards in a game. Based on his strong finish, he still seems to have plenty left in the tank.

The Rookies

Buffalo also has two rookies in their running back room: There’s Cook – their second-round pick out of Georgia – and Blackshear, an undrafted free agent from Virginia Tech. 

Cook was the third running back off the board behind Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III and spent all four years in the SEC at Georgia, helping the Bulldogs win the National Championship this past year. In 2021, Cook was second on the team in rushing attempts (113), rushing yards (728), and rushing touchdowns (seven) while leading the team in scrimmage yards with 1,012.

At 5-foot-11, Cook is the biggest running back on the roster and can do it all. He’s excellent at catching the ball out of the backfield and is elusive with the ball in his hands, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 10.9 yards per reception during his college career.

Blackshear originally attended Rutgers for three seasons before transferring to Virginia Tech for his final two years of college. During his career, he ran for 1,912 yards and 14 touchdowns and had 123 catches for 1,213 yards and seven touchdowns. He was used as a receiving back more during his time at Rutgers but ran the ball more efficiently while with the Hokies.

The Final Verdict

The Game Day’s Position Battle Prediction: With the Bills taking Cook in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft, the thought is that they want him to take over as the starting running back. 

That won’t happen this year, however, as Singletary will keep his job. Instead, Cook will split carries with Johnson and Jones will maintain his usual spot on special teams. Blackshear is a talented back and will sign with the practice squad, while Moss’s time with Buffalo will be over at the end of the preseason.