Buffalo Bills: A run based offense is still viable in today’s NFL

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 26: Running back LeSean McCoy
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 26: Running back LeSean McCoy /

As the Buffalo Bills finished off their preseason against the Detroit Lions Thursday, I started to think about the offense.

Yes, it was the fourth and final preseason game which is meaningless, but if the Buffalo Bills have another strong running game this season it could be a pleasant surprise in a season that keeps getting tied to words like “tank” and “rebuild.”

The Buffalo Bills piled up over 200 yards rushing against Detroit. Even though both sides had reserve players in the game, it was a nice to see the offense move the ball and control the clock. That helped the defense stay fresh and keep the Lions from doing much when they had the ball. Those two things will be the foundation of the Buffalo Bills success this season.

When you talk about offense in today’s NFL, people want to hear about passing the ball,  quarterback stats, etc. When you bring up a run based offense, eyes start to roll. Especially in Buffalo after the Rex Ryan Era of “building a bully.” He was right about one thing though, the Bills have led the NFL in rushing the last two seasons. That is something to build this season. The defense looks to be getting their bearings back also.

Defense and running game emphasis may seem like a thing of the past, but if executed right, that emphasis will win games. When you have LeSean McCoy in your backfield anything is possible. The preseason has also shown that there are capable backups in the backfield. Jonathan Williams and Mike Tolbert have done well in their relief roles.

Thursday against Detroit, Joe Banyard, and Jordan Johnson looked good in their final attempts to crack the 53 man roster. Even Taiwan Jones made his case in Thursday’s game.

Most likely, Williams and Tolbert will be the running backs behind McCoy on the depth chart. This gives the Bills three running backs with three different styles to wear down defenses. McCoy will use his elusiveness to make defenders miss and keep them chasing him all game.

When Jonathan Williams comes in, he offers a mix of speed, power and one-cut ability similar to ex-Bill Mike Gillislee. Mike Tolbert is a load to contend with between the tackles in short yardage and goal line situations.

More from BuffaLowDown

The Buffalo Bills will face several high powered offenses (Falcons, Bengals, Patriots twice, Saints, Colts, Buccaneers, Raiders, Chargers) this season. Let’s face it; they will not be able to match score for score with those teams. The next best thing to do is keep those teams off the field as well as keep our defense rested and ready to go. For the majority of the playoff drought for the Buffalo Bills, they relied on the defense to keep them in games and they did just that, until the third and fourth quarter, when they were worn out from being on the field for the majority of the game due to offensive futility.  That led to a lot of close games lost in the end or games that got out of hand in the fourth quarter.

What makes this season any different? LeSean McCoy. The Buffalo Bills have not had a running back this dynamic since Thurman Thomas. The offensive line, when healthy is another reason. This is the best line in recent memory by far.

The Buffalo Bills had an average running game, below average passing game, and solid defense for many of the seasons during the drought. If the two things are clicking at the same time, it could make a difference. Especially down the stretch when weather is more of a factor and the wears of the season are taking its toll on every team.

The Buffalo Bills still need to gain more balance on offense. After two seasons of leading the league in rushing, teams will be looking to shut down the run and make Tyrod Taylor beat them with his arm. This is where the play-action will come in handy, but the Bills need to establish a deep threat to keep defenses honest.

This is where losing Watkins hurts, but there has been some promise shown by players like Reilly and Shorts before he went down to a toe injury. If the Bills can maintain their strong running game and get more production out of the passing game, they could pleasantly surprise the fans this season.

I’m not expecting anything major, but I would like to see somewhere around 250 passing yards per game. It’s not impossible or eye popping but combined with a strong running game; it would make for a decent offense that could move the ball and wear teams down.

In today’s pass happy NFL, it’s still possible to win with the “old school” method of running the ball and good defense. The Denver Broncos proved that in 2014, winning the Super Bowl with that method. I wouldn’t compare the Bills defense to the Broncos, or any of the Bills quarterbacks to Peyton Manning but the philosophy was similar. If the Bills can continue to have success running the ball and the defense takes a step forward, this season may not be as bad as people are predicting.

Next: Buffalo Bills: Predicting the 53 Final Edition

What do you think of the Buffalo Bills’ offense? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!