Training camp is underway and for those lucky enough to get tickets it’s been a spectacle. We’ve already seen things like Josh Allen taking the shoes off his feet and giving them to some young fans and heard about Kaiir Elam and Stefon Diggs shouting contest. We’ve seen positional changes like Cody Ford being sat and Khalil Shakir taking more reps than Jamison Crowder. Needless to say, it’s been an exciting camp.
As we already know a great running back is one of the needs of the Bills, so one of the more interesting “battles” in camp will be between James Cook and Devin Singletary. Cook is the newly drafted rookie who’s got a chip on his shoulder in the shape of his older brother, superstar Dalvin Cook.
Singletary is the veteran who’s been competing for his spot on the team since day one and had his best year last year with over 1000 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. It’s likely that when the season starts Singletary will be the lead back but whether he gets used as much as last year will remain to be seen as Cook offers more versatility.
Cook has reportedly come into training camp about 12 pounds lighter than his playing weight last year. It’s believed he’s trying to up his speed and cutting ability without sacrificing too much stability in the face of blitzing linebackers. The early word is it’s already paying off as he had a few amazing plays during practice this week that got the offense cheering, including an electric touchdown catch from Case Keenum. With this news, it’s easy to see why some people think he will be the breakout star of training camp.
This doesn’t mean Singletary has too much to be concerned about. He’s earned his roster spot and unless something drastic happens in training camp, I don’t foresee Singletary being shifted to the number two running back; however, what could happen, is the running game being factored less than last year in favor of the passing game, especially if Cook shows he has hot hands, as training camp continues. This means while Singletary may be the number one back, he might be featured less in the offense as the season progresses. Combine this idea with the fact that this is Singletary’s last year on contract and it could make for a fun rivalry to form this season.
The running backs that need to be more concerned, are Zack Moss, Duke Johnson, and Taiwan Jones. Moss battled Singletary for the starting role in 2020 and 2021 with it being clear in the latter half of last season that Singletary had won that competition. The addition of Duke Johnson this offseason is likely just to have some more bodies in the backfield during training camp to compete and light a fire under the other running backs. While Johnson (like Cook) is primarily seen as a receiving back he has also shown to be effective at times in the red zone. This spells trouble for Zack Moss, who’s made a career as a red zone rusher.
Additionally, the Bills elected to sign Taiwan Jones on for another year, but his role will likely be limited to special teams. That doesn’t mean his job is secure, if push comes to shove Duke Johnson could replace Jones, as Johnson has special teams experience as well. This makes five running backs on the roster right now and it’s doubtful all five will make the cut. Unless Moss and Jones show they are capable of taking things to the next level during training camp, come September they may be placed on the practice squad or released.
How this training camp will shake out remains to be seen but we know one thing for sure, the running back competition will be fierce as each player fights for the starring role. No matter who comes out on top, it’s clear the Bills’ backfield looks to be primed to take a big leap forward this year.
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