As the Bills progress towards their first preseason game, the position of running back has been one of increasing concern, so much so that they added veteran running back Reggie Bush last week to bring some much needed experience. Bush will compete for the backup spot along with a number of other players who, for one reason or another, may not be the answer the team initially hoped for.
The Bills find themselves in the fortunate position of having an elite level feature back in Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy. Despite playing in only twelve games last year due to injury, McCoy ended the year ranked twelfth among all backs and enjoyed a six game stint in which he averaged 22.5 touches, 120 total yards and five targets a game. However, by his own admission he wasn’t happy with his 2015 performance saying, “I feel like (last) year I didn’t play up to the standards I hold for myself.” Despite living up to his ‘shady‘ nickname with some slightly suspect behaviour including an alleged nightclub assault (where no charges were brought), McCoy is back for 2016 and looking to return to the level he expects of himself. However, at the age of 28 and with over 2,000 career carries, he is at the point where research shows a running back’s body starts to break down. We certainly saw this in 2015 with several injuries of varying severity affecting his year, so the Bills will have to work hard to ensure they keep their number one guy as healthy as possible.
To avoid placing an excessive workload on McCoy’s shoulders, decent back-up depth is needed and this is where Buffalo’s problems start to appear. Currently, Mike Gillislsee who has 53 career carries and appeared in five games for the Bills last year, seems the most likely to back up McCoy. This was probably not part of the masterplan, but as so often happens, off field events have taken hold of the situation.
Karlos Williams, who showed promise as the backup in 2015, is suspended for the first four games of the year for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. The team had high hopes for him taking on a bigger role in 2016 however Williams was also in the news for reporting to minicamp significantly out of shape. At the time, he blamed this weight gain on his fiancee’s pregnancy and has worked for the last month to get back into shape. However, he is still reportedly 20 lbs overweight and has spent much of camp so far working with the training staff. There is now some question over whether he will even make the roster, let alone play a key role.
Aware of the potential backfield issues, the Bills drafted former Arkansas Razorback Jonathan Williams in the fifth round of this year’s draft to bolster the depth chart. But continuing the series of unfortunate events besieging Buffalo’s backfield, Williams was arrested in July for driving while intoxicated and is due in court this month. He is also likely to face consequences for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, although any suspension will not be immediate.
Considering these problems, its unsurprising the Bills reached out to a veteran. Reggie Bush certainly has the big name pedigree to appeal to Rex Ryan, although the two of them previously exchanged some heated trash talk while Bush was a Miami Dolphin. Bush has exceeded 1,000 yards twice in his 10 year career, although injury has dogged his recent seasons. Entering his eleventh year in the league, the team know that they cannot afford to run him into the ground, but that his experience, speed and talent will provide a further dimension to the increasingly ‘holey’ backfield. Speaking on their plans, Rex acknowledged this stating: “First off, with Reggie Bush, he’s such a talent but we want him to be almost like that Ferrari that we unleash and let people be like“Oh man, he’s out there!”
If Bush is the Ferrari, then McCoy is the Bentley, and with the miles stacking up on his clock, someone will need to step up to enable Buffalo to keep their prized possession ticking over nicely for the whole season.
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