3: RB By Committee… Will It Work?


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Buffalo Bills Running Backs

(Counting down to Opening Day at The Ralph, I’m going to highlight four critical questions facing the Bills as we head into the 2007 season. This is the second of four articles, focusing on our running game.)

We’ve heard it said over and over again by Dick Jauron and his staff, “We’re going to take a running back by committee approach this season.” When we first heard those words, Willis McGahee had just been shipped to Baltimore and the Bills were left with Anthony Thomas, Shaud Williams, and whoever they might be able to acquire in free agency and the draft. So, at that point a committee sounded pretty good.

But then they landed Marshawn Lynch with the #12 pick. He was very highly rated, maybe only second in the draft to Adrian Peterson. And not long after Lynch, we picked up another RB who seemed promising – Dwayne Wright. All of a sudden we have a premiere RB in Lynch, and a decent stable of backs with A-Train, Lynch, Williams, and Wright. Maybe the committee is the right way to go?

Add an amazing pre-season performance by I-AA college player, Fred Jackson, and maybe even throw Josh Scobey in the mix, and the coaches stick to their original prediction that we’d see a team of guys handling the ball this year rather than a feature back. Now Shaud Williams and Josh Scobey are gone, but we’re left with four very good options in our backfield: Lynch, Thomas, Wright & Jackson.

But does a committee really work? Don’t we need to get one guy “in a rhythm”?

I am reminded of 1988. The Bills did not have a feature back that year. Thurman Thomas was a rookie, and did get a good deal of the carries as the season wore on, but as I remember it, Thomas shared the carries with Robb Riddick, Ronnie Harmon, and even Jamie Mueller. He ended up with 881 yards that season, and had a decent rookie year not bearing the burden of being the feature back.

Perhaps that could be the best thing that could happen to Marshawn Lynch? He won’t have the pressure of being the go-to guy. He’s part of the committee. He’s not even the chairman right now. That job – until further notice – belongs to the more seasoned “A-Train”. (I believe he will begin to take over the bulk of the carries as the season wears on, but for now, Thomas gets the starts.)

Really, what will make the difference in the run game for the Bills is not whether Lynch is the featured back, or part of a running back committee. Really it comes down to our offensive line opening holes for one or all of those guys. In the pre-season we did not see much of that, and by the coaches’ own admission, they just need more time to “come together”.

Unfortunately, we only have three more days.

The Bills will take a committee approach at the running back position this fall. I do believe it can and will work. I think Lynch will develop very well in that system – where he does not bear the full burden. We’ll just have to see how the big boys up front can “come together”. And our rookie may just be elected chairman of the committee by the end of the year.

Tomorrow, Question #2: “Moss & Chambers & Coles, Oh My!”