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Four Downs with David: Buffalo Bills Running Backs

Welcome back to “Four Downs with David.” In this week’s article, we will be focusing on the offensive backfield, including a double-dip with Preseason week 1 darling, Devin Singletary.



I found it somewhat challenging this week to determine which takes were spicier, so I’m sure there will be some varying opinions on each one. Now that the preseason is officially underway, it’s easy to start down the path of overreacting to one game. The real purpose of this week’s article is to start throwing some scenarios into the hopper, and to start the discussion on what we should, and could, expect from the Bills backfield in 2019.

1st Down – Mild, “Frank Gore will lead the Team in Rushing Touchdowns”

Frank Gore saw very limited game action during the first week of the Preseason. Gore’s five yard run in the early stages of the 1st quarter was as unheralded as a play could be, but could be a sign of things to come this season. My co-host on the Bills Guys Podcast, Steve Mathes, spoke about this play being one of his favorite of the entire game. Gore ground his way for the gain and looked powerful in doing so behind Cody Ford and Ty Nsekhe over the right side.

I can easily picture that same type of play taking place multiple times this year at the goal line. In my opinion, Gore should be the clear choice for goal-line carries this season, and with the upgrades the Bills have made on their offensive line, Gore should have a chance to score 6-8 rushing touchdowns. In all seriousness, Josh Allen might be the biggest threat to lead the team in rushing touchdowns, but since we are focusing on running back this week, I’ll give the edge to Gore.

2nd Down – Medium, “LeSean McCoy will Rush for Fewer than 1,000 yards”

To me, this is a somewhat mild take. I would love to hear opinions from the fans on how they project running back carries will be split for the Bills this year. I am finding it increasingly difficult to envision a scenario this season where any single player receives an overwhelming majority (let’s say, 70% or more) of the running back carries. I do believe that LeSean McCoy will lead the team in rushing yards, and could even receive upwards of 60% of the running back carries, but I don’t think it will be enough for him to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark. McCoy has averaged 224 carries a year in two seasons with Sean McDermott as his head coach.

In both seasons, he didn’t have nearly the talent behind him on the depth chart that he does this year. If McCoy handles 224 carries and is able to hit his career average of 4.5 YPC, it would get him to 1,008 rushing yards on the season. Reaching those marks could be tougher this year given that most analysts expect both Gore and Singletary to have meaningful contributions.

The Bills appear to have a trio of backs that all bring slightly different skillsets to the field. Only the Bills coaching staff knows (we think) the grand plan they have for their backs this year, but I would not be surprised to see the following scenario shake out…McCoy leads the team in rushing yards, Gore leads the team in rushing touchdowns (see 1st Down), and Singletary leads the team in running back receptions (see 3rd down).

3rd Down – Hot, “Devin Singletary will lead all Bills Running Backs in Receptions”

I hope everyone who is reading this article had a chance to watch Devin Singletary play against this Colts this past week. It’s hard to not come away impressed with how the rookie played in his first real NFL game action. His stat line of 9 carries for 27 yards doesn’t even tell the full story.

As is the case in most preseason situations, there were several receivers and running backs that played throughout the game. Singletary led the Bills in receptions with three, but it was how he caught the ball, and slid and juked his way around defenders that was most impressive to me. On one particular pass play, the ball was thrown high by Matt Barkley, but Singletary went up at snagged it. Almost in a single motion after he caught the ball, he turned upfield and escaped another tackle on his way to gaining nine yards. Although it seems like another unheralded play during the game, it could be a sign of things to come for what the Bills have in store for the rookie this season.

4th Down – Extra Hot, “Devin Singletary will Eclipse 1,000 Scrimmage Yards”

I can’t help it, but I am falling into the trap of overreacting to what I saw in the first preseason game. Devin Singletary has earned a spot in two of my takes this week, and for 4th down, I am predicting that he will eclipse 1,000 scrimmage yards during his rookie season. It may not seem like an overly difficult task, but we have to remember that Singletary is a rookie, and remains third on the depth chart behind two potential hall-of-famers in LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore (the word “potential” applies more to McCoy than Gore).

It seems clear that McCoy has had a chip on his shoulder ever since arriving in Buffalo and heading into 2019, I believe he wants to prove a lot of the doubters wrong. Singletary will have to battle for McCoy for touches all year; but ultimately, I don’t believe the Bills will be able to keep him off the field much, especially if he becomes a reliable pass blocker, and receiver out of the backfield on third downs. A season with 650 rushing yards and 350 receiving yards is not out of the total realm of possibility, but he will need to have a very special season to reach these milestones.