Last year at this time the Buffalo Bills featured one of the oldest backfields in the NFL.
LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore were expected to be the Bills’ 1-2 punch in the spring, but that plan changed after taking Devin Singletary in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
At training camp, Singletary played well enough for the Bills to shift gears and release McCoy.
“This allows Devin more opportunities to show what he can do for the team,” GM Brandon Beane said upon releasing McCoy. “We believe in LeSean and still believe he can play, but you can’t look at every decision in a vacuum. After the draft Devin was a guy we were excited about, but some guys transition faster and some guys transition slower. That’s one of the decisions. Who is ready in that running back group to contribute right away? And we just felt right now that Devin would be able to help us along with the other guys that we’re keeping.”
With McCoy out of the picture, Frank Gore assumed the No. 1 job with Singletary serving as the team’s No. 2 back.
Gore started off slowly with Singletary making the most of his reps through the first two weeks of the season. Singletary, however, suffered a hamstring injury against the Giants that kept him out of action for the next three weeks. Gore would take advantage of the opportunity by rushing for over 80 yards in games while averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
The veteran struggled to come close to that pace as the season wore on. From Week 8-17, Gore only averaged 4.0 yards per carry two times while failing to get over 1.5 yards per carry four times in that stretch.
Whereas Gore struggled, Singletary thrived. Over that same stretch, Singletary averaged over four yards per carry in every game minus Week 16 against the Patriots. He was inactive in Week 17 as the Bills had already clinched a playoff berth.
At the conclusion of the season, it was clear that Singletary would be the Bills’ No. 1 back in 2020 while Gore would be playing elsewhere.
WHO’S OUT, WHO’S IN?
Gore may not be on the Bills’ roster anymore, but he’s staying in the division for 2020. The veteran signed a one-year deal with the Jets in May and will look to contribute as part of the team’s backfield.
Senorise Perry also had his contract expire this offseason. Perry contributed on special teams and will compete for a roster spot on the Titans in 2020.
Buffalo upgraded their backfield by adding Zack Moss on day two of the draft and signing Taiwan Jones in free agency. Buffalo also added Antonio Williams and fullback Reggie Gilliam as undrafted free agents following the 2020 draft.
Moss was viewed as an early day-two prospect by many draft analysts, but fell into the Bills’ lap in Round 3. The former Utah RB rushed for over 1,000 yards three times in his collegiate career. At the end of his career, Moss held six team records.
Jones is expected to significantly upgrade the Bills’ special teams unit. He had previously served in that role with the Bills before joining the Texans in 2019.
Williams and Gilliam are not locks for the main roster. Williams faces the longest odds while Gilliam will have to show the team that he can contribute at fullback and on special teams if he hopes to replace veteran Patrick DiMarco.
In terms of additions, the Bills return their No. 1 back in Singletary. In addition to Singletary, the Bills will also be returning T.J. Yeldon and Christian Wade. Yeldon will be competing for the team’s No. 3 job while Wade will likely return to the team’s practice squad as an exempt member.
What can the Bills expect from a Singletary/Moss backfield?
Expectations are high for the Bills in 2020.
In addition to their top-five defense, the Bills are expecting their offense to take a significant step forward after acquiring Stefon Diggs via trade. Of course, part of the team’s offensive growth will come down to how their backfield performs this season.
How that backfield looks, however, is unclear due to COVID-19. Can the Bills hand over a significant role to Moss with such a shortened offseason? That will be decided based on how Moss performs at training camp, but the Bills would be wise to lean on Singletary early in the season.
Last year, Singletary finished with 151 carries in 12 games. Over that time, he rushed for 775 yards and finished tied for first in the league in yards per carry (5.1) with Derrick Henry among backs who received 150 carries or more. Realistically, Singletary needs to reach a minimum of 275 total touches as the team’s No. 1 back.
Moss’ usage is harder to figure out.
Moss’ role can expand as the season wears on. The rookie RB has the ability to contribute immediately as a short yardage back and near the goal line, but how much he can contribute in terms of picking up the blitz and as a receiver could play a role in his overall usage on a week-to-week basis.
In time, the “Motor” and Moss backfield may end up being a 50/50 split, but in 2020 Singletary may see the bulk of the load.