Singletary remains the Bills’ most-used back by a wide margin, and his versatility is the reason why
The Buffalo Bills narrowly took down the Detroit Lions, 28-25, to preserve their Sean McDermott-era undefeated Thanksgiving Day record. It wasn’t always easy, with up-and-down performances from many of the Bills. One of the team’s steadier performances came from running back Devin Singletary, who once again took on the—ahem—lion’s share of running back snaps. Let’s take a look at the game film.
The unused outlet receiver
Singletary was on the field for 60 snaps, or 78% of the time. On many of those opportunities, he acted as the safety-valve route runner. Note: he was only thrown the ball once and caught it for an eight-yard gain. Also note: the Bills aren’t known for dump-off type “safe” throws, so while Singletary was often open in this role, it’s hard to assume Josh Allen was looking for him on most of these plays.
Making the first defender miss
I pause two consecutive frames to show you how quickly Singletary planted his foot and shifted his body weight. Each frame is about one-fifteenth of a second. Singletary can be decisive and impressive in his cuts. Assuming there’s some place to go, he can find extra yards.
I don’t want to make it seem as if Singletary’s block is the reason this touchdown happens. I’m more pointing out that the Bills are comfortable having him chip, which is really why he’s on the field so much. Singletary was effective here. I wouldn’t sing his praises for blocking overall, but I also wouldn’t chant any curses, either. Not that I know any in the first place…
Finding extra yardage
On the pause, you can see that lean again. It helps Singletary break a tackle. At the end of the run, he lowers his shoulders to make sure he’s moving forward after the tackle for a few more yards.
Alignment and more blocking
In addition to being the safety-valve route runner, Singletary was lined up in the slot a fair amount in this game. For this particular play, he’s almost tight-end like, creating a chip block before leaking out toward the sideline.
If there’s anything bad to say about Singletary, it’ll likely be his lack of elite power. Or his lack of elite speed. If there’s anything to say to counteract those flaws, though, it’d be his contact balance. After he’s hit, he rarely drops unless he’s helping himself to the ground (see Play 4). That allows him to gain extra yards not because he’s a pile-mover, but because he continues to remain upright.
Devin Singletary may not have elite traits, but that isn’t always everything. What Singletary does bring to the table is a good jack-of-all-trades capability. That showed up versus the Lions, as he lined up all over the field, blocked, and had an efficient day running the ball. It might not have been spectacular enough to warrant a turkey leg after the contest, but Singletary’s steady day helped push the Bills to victory.