Well, they did it. The Buffalo Bills are now 4-0 after defeating the Las Vegas Raiders. The offense looked as sharp as ever, and the defense forced two fumbles in the 4th quarter to seal the deal. This pass-heavy spread offense is here to stay. However, I want to take the time to give a shout out to Devin Singletary, who is finally getting the carries he deserves.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Zack Moss, and he could still become a valuable change-of-pace back; however, I can say with almost 100% certainty that Singletary is more effective in the feature back role. In the first two weeks of 2020, he had 26 total touches for 129 yards. In week three, his first game without Moss, he had 121 yards on 17 touches. While Singletary had only 76 yards on 23 touches against the Raiders, he still bounced off of tackles and made defenders miss in the open field. Given his recent return to 2019 form, it comes as no surprise that many are comparing him to a certain Bills legend:
I have been wanting to write this article for a while, and I would have done so last week, but I could not overlook Tyler Kroft and his compelling relationship with Buffalo. (Thank you to everyone who has viewed that article!) So, without further adieu, in this week’s installment of “2020 Vision”, I will determine whether or not Devin Singletary will be the next Thurman Thomas.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…
In preparation for this analysis, I purchased a magic mirror. (I figured that would be more appropriate for game film comparisons moving forward.) Anyways, (*ahem*) mirror, mirror on the wall, are Motor and Thurman comparable at all? Why, yes they are.
Both Singletary (5’7”, 203 lbs.) and Thomas (5’10”, 200 lbs.) share a similar physique and play style. They have a lower center of gravity, allowing them to shed tackles and stay on their feet in close quarters. Neither back has blazing speed, but they do have the agility to change directions in the open field and bounce off defenders to get those extra yards after contact. Thurman is arguably the quicker back, though both are capable of shifting into that 2nd gear when they get past the line of scrimmage. In addition, they are capable receivers and can hold their own as pass blockers.
Consulting the Ancient Scrolls
Devin Singletary didn’t emerge as the feature back until midseason. However, he still recorded solid numbers (969 total yards, four total touchdowns) in 12 games. Thurman Thomas only had 120 more total yards and two fewer touchdowns in his rookie year (1988). Singletary actually had higher averages than Thomas in each of the following statistical categories: yards per carry, rush yards per game, receptions per game, receiving yards per game, total yards per touch, and total touchdowns. The only true distinction between the two backs in their first season is that Thomas was the feature back the entire year.
One thing that irked some Bills fans about Singletary last season was his number of fumbles. However, he only had four the entire season while Thurman Thomas had nine in his rookie year. Furthermore, Thurman averaged over four fumbles a year during his Buffalo tenure. (If he played today, that would give fans fits.)
When I think of this comparison, I think about the Washington and Denver games from last season. Singletary made plays in both the pass and running games, revving that motor and putting on a master class in making people miss. He showed flashes of greatness once he took over the feature back role in the second half of 2019 and continues to do so in the absence of Zack Moss. If he continues to be utilized as a feature back, he could very well become the next Thurman Thomas.
* All player and team stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
What do you think? Will Devin Singletary become the next Thurman Thomas? Will he become a feature back? Let me know on Twitter (@zvaughn2712).