If you’re gonna be a thing, be all that thing
The Buffalo Bills continue to struggle running the ball. I am advocating putting in a waiver claim on a running back who has averaged 2.6 yards per attempt so far in 2021.
I recognize the seemingly insane nature of those two statements used in concert. But desperate times calls for desperate measures, and I have a multi-pronged argument as to why I believe the Bills should investigate the possibility.
1. The Bills are primarily a zone-running team and have two lead runners who haven’t performed well running zone
When rushing Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, the Bills have utilized zone concepts 63 percent of the time. They’ve been rewarded with Singletary’s lowest career yards after contact per attempt and Zack Moss ranking 48th in the NFL in rushing yards over expected per carry. The narrative from head coach Sean McDermott on down has been that the team wants to remain “two dimensional” but the rushing attack has fallen flat for yet another year in Buffalo. This past offseason, the “zone running team vs gap running team” discussion (and in particular, the “pin and pull” run plays popular during Singletary’s rookie season) was popular on social media, but the Bills have decided what they want to be. They want to be a zone-plurality team. Taking a look up from the metrics reveals that Moss is inconsistent in his decision-making and Singletary lacks the burst to explode through lanes before defenders collapse on them.
2. Matt Breida has earned more touches for a similar skill set to the one Lindsay has
Back-to-the-active-list veteran Matt Breida, ironically enough, is the only Bills running back who has more gap runs than zone runs in 2021, but his burst is obvious and his success in the zone-rushing system in San Francisco (where during his career year in 2018, he ran a whopping 75 percent of his runs alongside zone concepts) has given Bills Mafia a very small sample size of success. Phillip Lindsay was at his best in Denver when running zone. The same year Matt Breida was setting new personal bests in the Bay Area, Lindsay was averaging 5.4 yards per attempt, breaking 30 10+-yard runs, and scoring nine touchdowns with essentially a 50/50 split between zone and gap. Breida and Lindsay have the decisiveness and burst necessary to capitalize on small windows, which may be all they’re going to get from the Bills’ offensive line in 2021.
3. Trickle down through the roster matters
Marquez Stevenson could be activated in the coming days or weeks for the Buffalo Bills, and given Isaiah McKenzie’s costly unforced fumble against the Colts, the team may be looking for return changes. Although he’s only had minimal usage as a returner in his NFL career, Matt Breida has been seen fielding kickoffs in warmups to the game and in practice. Utilizing him in that role could free up McKenzie’s usage more on offense, but could be counter balanced with a Lindsay signing to supplement the offense with a similar skillset to Breida. It would likely force Moss to the inactive list.
4. Houston running attack isn’t getting ANYONE going right now
I recognize the yards-per-carry mark for Lindsay this year is not good. But the Houston Texans do not have a single running back with a YPC mark over 3.5 for the year and the back with the highest mark (Mark Ingram) isn’t on their team anymore. The issues run much deeper than running back personnel in Houston, and dismissing Lindsay’s talent and achievements for his career due to half a season in Houston could prove to be a miscalculation.
…and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings Podcast Network!