Sports

The Bills have one of the NFL’s worst running games. How much should they care?


Via Henry McKenna
FOX Sports AFC East Writer

Forgive me. I am becoming the best team in football.

But it’s a testament to Buffalo Bills‘dominates after the first two weeks. It’s about taking everything in me to sit on my hands and avoid comparing them to 2007 New England Patriots. Alas, I just did what I said I wouldn’t.

Anyway, with the Bills playing so well, I’m left to assess whether their minor weaknesses could be significant enough to stop them from making a Super Bowl. Because that’s definitely how their season is expected to end: in the Super Bowl.

Buffalo seems to have some questions about talent at full-back, but the return of White Tre’Davious, which will happen in the coming weeks, will address those issues. The problem with no clear solution revolves around the Bills’ struggle in running football.

So far, the Bills’ remedy for that has been to allow Allen to scramble for quick javelin passes, run the ball on RPOs, and execute designed runs. Allen’s size and speed make him a unique threat, and he adds tremendous value to the offense as a runner. But he can’t add that value if he gets hurt and misses time. So, as I wrote last week, Bills needs to avoid overusing him. They need to rely more on their running back.

So far this season, Allen is the team’s highest-ranked runner on Pro Football Focus, a digital scouting service – and by a sizable margin. His high score is 76.9. Run back Devin Singletary stands at 64.2, a good level. Running against James Cook comes in at 55.9, which is fine, and Zack Moss landed at 46, not good.

The entire attack path is classified from 58.7 to 66.2. So, according to PFF’s analysis, all is well – but, again, not so good.

While these players are working together, the unit is having a rough start to the new year. The Bills’ dashing DVOA (an indicator of their effectiveness when it comes to barrage) is a staggering -36%. It’s the third worst in the NFL. That was partly due to a couple of setbacks in Week 1 – but those only negatively impacted DVOA so much. From a counting statistics standpoint, the Bills are tied for 13th in the NFL in yards per take (4.5) and 15th in total dash yards (222).

Why is DVOA so obnoxious? Because according to that metric, Allen’s scrambled broadcasts count towards DVOA passing, not DVOA rushing. And those scrambles are the best part of the Bills’ bombardment of behavior.

When you sum all these stats together, it’s pretty safe to say that the Bills’ slam attack is in the bottom half of the league and the power of their attack (when Allen runs) is indeed is something they realize they need to stop abusing. At the very least, the Bills pledged not to use Allen as a runner when they already had a substantial lead.

“I think I could be better in that respect but given the circumstances of it, understanding the flow of the game,” Allen said this week. “I do what’s necessary, in my eyes. …Readiness is the best ability. Just understand that and reduce and don’t take too many hits.”

The Bills have a number of advantages when it comes to running football, particularly in James Cook, a fast and elusive Buffalo runner who is in the second round in 2022. While the Bills seem hopeful. he will make his biggest impact as a pass catcher, which hasn’t stopped him from making an explosive run in the second half against Titan.

But if Buffalo doesn’t improve significantly, does it matter? Let’s take a look at Rush DVOA regular season of the last 10 teams to appear in the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl LVI

Bengals: -10.7% (20th in the NFL)

Rams: -3.9% (12th)

Super Bowl LV

Team Leader: -5.7% (13th)

Buccaneers: -2.0% (10th)

Super Bowl LIV

49ers: .5% (Saturday)

Team leader: -7.3% (16th)

Super Bowl LIII

Rams: 20.6% (first place)

Patriots: 1.7% (8th)

Super Bowl LI

Patriots: 12.9% (2nd place)

Eagle: -10.7% (18th)

In general, these teams have a lot more effective pounding attacks than Buffalo. But since the Bills have only played two games of the season, they have plenty of time to improve. The important thing is that Buffalo’s barrage of attacks is (so far) very annoying. In the past five years, no team with this aggressive attack has made it to the Super Bowl. But there is still plenty of time for them to rectify the situation and get into the sights of the above teams.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as an AFC East correspondent, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.


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