Lynch remains focal point of Buffalo's offense (Photo Source)
Prior to the 2008 NFL Draft - in fact, prior to the free agent signing period of this past March - we took a look at the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position, breaking down then-current personnel, finding holes, and building our community needs list.
Now that free agency and the Draft have been completed, and the Bills have infused their roster with new talent, it's time to repeat our process. Where has Buffalo gotten better? Where have they gotten worse? How will additions impact which Bills veterans remain on the roster? These are questions that we'll attempt to answer over the next week or so.
We continue those discussions today with an examination of Buffalo's stable of running backs. To view our previous discussions on Buffalo's RB situation (pre-off-season), bang it here.
Marshawn Lynch: Here's hoping that Buffalo's prize 2007 rookie spent his off-season accomplishing the difficult task of staying in shape while taking it easy on his body - the second-year back was relied on heavily as a rookie, and will be counted on even more in his second season. Lynch is the bread and butter of Buffalo's offense, and you can bet that he'll continue to face loaded defensive fronts until Buffalo's passing attack can take pressure off of him.
Lynch has elite NFL potential, but don't expect to see more than flashes of it in his sophomore season as Buffalo's offense continues to lose the training wheels. Buffalo's coaching staff could stand to find a way to keep Lynch fresh, as well as getting him more involved in the passing game. Lynch has unquestionably cemented himself as the engine that makes Buffalo's offense go. He's a fan favorite, a hard worker, and a fun personality. I could write about this guy for weeks at a time.
Fred Jackson: Jackson was a pleasant surprise in 2007, filling in admirably for an injured Lynch - and then complementing him well - in late-season wins over the Redskins and Dolphins. Once Lynch returned to action, Jackson continued to see steady work as a receiving back and third down specialist. It is in Buffalo's best interest to continue to develop Jackson's role in this offense - he's a talented kid, and it takes pressure off of Lynch.
Dwayne Wright: Drafted in the fourth round last season, Wright was expected to provide the thunder to Lynch's lightning down the line. Wright was eventually passed on the depth chart by Jackson, the former Division III Coe College stand-out, and his playing time was minimal. He'll receive heavy competition for a roster spot this season from Buffalo's sixth-round draft pick, Xavier Omon.
The Additions: Xavier Omon, Bruce Hall
Omon becomes Buffalo's second sub-Division I running back on the roster, joining Jackson from Division II Northwest Missouri State. The rookie is a strong, tough runner with excellent cutting ability and solid (if unused) hands. Like Wright, he does not have the break-away speed to be a starter, but his 96 collegiate touchdowns prove he has a nose for the end zone.
Hall, an undrafted rookie free agent, is being looked at as a reserve and return specialist. He is a longshot to make the opening day roster.
The Subtractions: Anthony Thomas, Shaud Williams
Thomas, who has spent time under Dick Jauron with both the Bears and the Bills, was placed on Injured Reserve after a 2007 loss to the Jaguars and had not received significant playing time prior to filling in for Lynch in that game. The veteran is probably done in the NFL. The diminutive Williams was brought back after injuries to Lynch and Thomas and was not re-signed.
Pre-Season Outlook: Fred Jackson is currently the most experienced runner on Buffalo's roster, having a year of practice squad experience under his belt along with his contributions last year. Lynch and Wright are entering their second seasons, and Omon and Hall are rookies. However, along with youth comes a wide variety of skills and a potential superstar in Lynch. We will likely witness some growing pains as these young guys continue to learn the ropes, but there is talent at this position - and Turk Schonert would be crazy not to utilize it, especially from his top two guys.
Lynch and Jackson, at this point, are virtual locks for the opening day roster. The team will keep a third back, with Wright and Omon going to battle for that spot. There is a possibility that the team keeps four backs, but one of those guys will need to prove his worth either as a blocking back or on special teams for that to happen.
Change: Youth movement.
As always, your thoughts on Buffalo's running back situation are welcome and encouraged in the comments section.