With training camp now officially open, I’m re-examining the State of the Buffalo Bills’ roster, going position-by-position.
Here’s an in-depth look at the running backs and fullbacks:
- Devin Singletary
- Zack Moss
- T.J. Yeldon
- Taiwan Jones
- Christian Wade
- Antonio Williams
- Patrick DiMarco (fullback)
- Reggie Gilliam (fullback)
If it wasn’t for an injury in Week 2, which kept him out three games, Singletary would have most likely been in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation at the end of the season. As it was, he put up some terrific numbers in his first year as a pro, averaging 5.1 yards per-carry, good for most in the entire NFL for any back with at least 150 carries, and fifth overall amongst all players. He also became the team’s featured back as the season went on due to his impressive performances and Frank Gore’s ineffectiveness. At only 22-years-old and three years still remaining on his rookie contract, the future looks bright for both the player and position for the Bills. However, you need more than one running back in the NFL to have a fully formed offense, and the Bills addressed that by drafting Zack Moss in the third round, the same round they selected Singletary one year ago.
Moss was a highly productive college back, becoming the first player in Utah history to rush for over 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, totaling 4,067 yards, 38 touchdowns, and averaging 5.8 yards per-carry. He also caught 28 passes last year for 388 yards and two scores. He’s an aggressive, downhill runner, who not only doesn’t shy away from contact, but seems to welcome it. He’s tough to bring down, especially for smaller defensive backs once he gets going in the open field. Moss may take the role that veteran Frank Gore played last year as more of the between-the-tackles and red zone runner, complementing Singletary. But many believe he can also challenge to be the main back when it’s all said and done. Even if that were to happen, it will be tougher to expect right away given there was no acclimation period for rookies this offseason.
Yeldon has been in the league for five seasons. He rarely played last year, active for only six games. There’s a strong argument to be made he should have been playing more, given his ability to catch out of the backfield and match-up problems he creates. Taiwan Jones will most likely solely be used on special teams, so Yeldon has a solid chance of making the roster and being the third running back, basically playing the same role he did last season, sometimes active and sometimes not.
Jones returns to the Bills after spending one season with the Houston Texans. After six years with the Oakland Raiders to start his career, he spent 2017 and 2018 in Buffalo, mainly playing on special teams. Last year in Houston, he made the critical catch-and-run in overtime of the playoff game against the Bills that set the Texans up to win the game. For his entire nine-year career, Jones only has 53 rushes and 19 receptions. He wasn’t signed to be in the backfield. He’ll most likely be a major special teams contributor, including the gunner on the punt team opposite Siran Neal, giving the team two solid players in those spots.
Wade was re-signed to a future/reserve contract and is in the exact same situation this year as he was last season. As part of the International Pathways Program, he is exempt from the camp roster, allowing the Bills 81 players as of August 17. The former rugby player is also, once again, exempt from the practice squad if he does not make the final roster. The Bills chose to go that route last year, which made him ineligible to be activated at all. Although he had a couple terrific plays last preseason, including an electrifying 65-yard touchdown run on his first professional football carry, and he works extremely hard and proved he is very serious about football, I expect the exact same thing to happen this year… and a lot of Bills fans shouting that he should have made the final roster.
Williams comes to Buffalo as an undrafted free agent from North Carolina after starting his collegiate career at Ohio State. In 20 games for the Tar Heels, he rushed for 826 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s a long-shot to make the roster.
The Bills have always had and used a true fullback on their roster under this coaching staff, and that fullback has only been DiMarco. He was signed by this regime when they took over in 2017 and has played every game for them in three years. They really value his leadership, and that should especially be true in the backfield room now that Frank Gore is gone. Also, considering he’s a valued core special teams player, and general manager Brandon Beane said in his end-of-year press conference that the team needs to get better on special teams, he’s got a great shot to keep sticking around. However, he is 31-years-old and they did sign an interesting fullback prospect in Reggie Gilliam.
Gilliam is a tremendous athlete who has the versatility to play both fullback and tight end, and we know how much this coaching staff loves versatility. At Toledo, over a four-year collegiate career, Gilliam caught 18 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. He also had un uncanny knack for blocking kicks, getting a hand on six of them in college! With the shortened offseason, he may have a longer shot than he otherwise would, but this is a position and player worth monitoring in August.
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