The Buffalo Bills had a variety of personnel in the backfield this year which leaves many questions regarding roster turnover for next year. Many factors go into these decisions based on production, salary, and injuries. Today’s post will address the RB/FB positions for the Buffalo Bills
This past season, there were 6 running back/fullback’s listed on the roster that saw playing time. Starting off, RB Marcus Murphy appeared in one game against the Miami Dolphins in relief for LeSean McCoy due to his sprained ankle. The most recent backfield addition thankfully suffered no injuries during his short stint with the team and showed the ability to play in the NFL. His future with the team remains murky at best as he is an unrestricted free agent and there is a dearth of talent at the position ahead of him.
Next up is RB Taiwan Jones. Jones actually never saw a carry in the RB position, instead was targeted 2 times resulting in 1 reception for 11 yards. Most of his game action occurred on special teams which unfortunately ended his season. The 7th year back broke his forearm during an onside kick return during the Week 9 loss to the Jets. Along with the fracture, Jones dealt with a knee injury early in the season that did not cause him to miss any time. Jones is also an unrestricted free agent and while his forearm is not concerning, his age and effectiveness may leave him without a team during the off season.
Travaris Cadet headlines the next RB in this post. Cadet as you may recall, suffered a traumatic left ankle fracture and dislocation during a routine play against the Patriots. Up to that point, Cadet was an effective change of pace back who allowed McCoy to stay fresh through games. Surgically, Cadet had his ankle relocated and then had a plate with screws inserted to stabilize the area. A typical rehab protocol allocates for 12+ weeks to return to walking, but may take much longer to return to full game speed. Cadet also suffered a concussion in December prior to the ankle which did not cause him to miss time. The 6th year journeyman is an unrestricted free agent and with a long recovery time factored in, his ability to recover fully will determine whether he has a roster spot next season.
Another back who saw no time in the backfield is RB Joe Banyard. The veteran back only saw time on special teams and while he does not have the carries that similar backs have at his age, he does not appear to be able to carry a workload for a NFL team. As he is a free agent right now, I do not see him on the roster for next year.
Patrick DiMarco was used sparingly in the offense this year at the fullback position. While he only saw 2 attempts for -2 yards, he saw some time in the receiving game and as a blocking fullback. DiMarco saw injuries to his ankle during the Kansas City game but did not miss any time. The 6th year fullback may find himself back on this roster next year as he was signed for 4 years for $8.4 million dollars.
The back who saw the most time in the backup role is Pro Bowl FB Mike Tolbert. The 10th year veteran carried the rock 66 attempts for 247 yards and one TD. He became the ire of the fan base due to his use during 3rd and long with short passes or runs that shut down offensive drives. Analyzing his injury complaints, he suffered a knee injury early in the season and sustained a moderate hamstring strain that sidelined him for 3 games. While he was able to return for the Colts game, he appeared to be limited until the regular season finale. Hamstring strains and tears not managed correctly can continue to limit players through the season. With the off-season to recover, he should not have any recurring issues, but his use in the offense and an unrestricted free agent determines whether he returns next season.
Finally, RB LeSean McCoy, the engine of the Bills offense continues to climb up the rushing ranks past the all time greats. Fortunately, McCoy only had a variety of minor injuries through the season which did not affect his production. The only significant injury McCoy sustained was a sprained ankle in the season finale against the Dolphins which did not limit his productiveness in the Wild Card loss against the Jaguars. Other issues McCoy dealt with included wrist, groin, and knee injuries in addition to illness that did not force him to miss any time.
McCoy has been incredibly resilient during this season & career but is approaching his age 30 season. As history has shown, many running backs begin to suffer decline in production around this time and McCoy is no exception. Those that have rushed for 1000 yard seasons after their age 30 season have seen a drop in production 1-2 years afterward. For those that rushed for over 1000 yards either did not accumulate the yards early in their careers or they were true outliers. I expect to see McCoy return to the starting RB role next season and continue to produce for the short window he has left.
While none of these small injuries are concerning for long term, that long term wear and tear adds up and he will eventually decline. With McCoy’s production both on the ground and in the receiving game, he is vital to the Bills successes. However, the Bills are aware of this and will hopefully address the backfield in the off season. As much as both McCoy and the Bills would like to remain productive, it is inevitable that he will decline in ability and relinquish his role.
Outside of McCoy and DiMarco, I expect this backfield to be turned over with fresh legs and develop the next running back for the Bills. As I am not an expert in roster management and salary cap issues, it’s possible that others from this article find their way back to the roster as depth players. The Bills do have RB Aaron Green on a futures contract but is not guarantee to make the team next season. Injury wise, everyone can come back healthy with proper rehab and time, but it will all depend on personnel needs.
I did not forget Kyle Williams contribution of his memorable rushing touchdown during the season finale. As this was atypical, I will not categorize him in with the RB’s, but give him the words and thoughts he deserves during his position review. Continue to check back with me for the latest updates on Bills injuries and season reviews. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!