Gone are the days when the Buffalo Bills used the "workhorse" running back. No longer will we see heavy doses of Travis Henry or Willis McGahee. Sheriff Fairchild is in town now, and he prefers diversity in his offense. So rather than having one guy, Buffalo now has a deep stable of backs, with the team poised to (likely) keep four of those on its opening day roster.
Last season, Buffalo's running game was extremely one-dimensional. You got what you got with Willis McGahee - lots of plodding and dancing, inconsistent production and few big plays. Now, our running backs can beat you any way imaginable. We can pound it down your throat with Anthony Thomas and Dwayne Wright. We can hit the edges of the defense with Marshawn Lynch. We can throw screen passes, line backs up at wide receiver; we can do pretty much whatever we want.
Buffalo will likely try to get the ball to Lynch more often than the other backs, based simply on his playmaking potential. But this isn't a one-horse show anymore; A-Train and Wright will see their fair share of carries as well. That's how we'll wear down opposing defenses week in and week out.
23-Marshawn Lynch: Buffalo's first-round pick has worlds of potential and has already endeared himself to Bills fans with his uplifting attitude. Now comes the hard part - playing second fiddle to Lee Evans on an offense that desperately needs his playmaking ability to show through. As long as the Bills don't force-feed Lynch too much out of the gate, he could end up having a very special rookie season.
28-Anthony Thomas: The veteran presence of our backfield, A-Train is here to serve two purposes: limit mistakes and groom the rookies. He'll be the starting running back out of the gate, but his role will be to do the little things like pick up the blitz, run on early downs and such. Despite being the "starter", he'll play second fiddle to Lynch, and could wind up playing third fiddle behind Dwayne Wright at the end of the season. But he's just as important as any other back on our roster, based solely on his experience.
31-Dwayne Wright: The "other rookie runner" may actually steal touches from the A-Train as the season progresses. The biggest back on our roster, Wright has better all-around skills than Thomas and may be more NFL-ready than most rookie runners due to his age (24) and maturity. This guy is the future "thunder" of a thunder-and-lightning attack with Lynch; he'll see limited attempts at the outset of his rookie year, however.
39-Josh Scobey: Despite being mainly a special teams signing, Scobey does have the ability to perform in this backfield. He's got good size, solid speed and hands and a bit of experience. He hasn't been utilized in the backfield, and for good reason - he's a special teams ace. He'll make the roster because of his special teams ability, but in the event of injury has the ability to perform well.
Rounding it out: Shaud Williams. He's been impressive in making the team as an undrafted free agent for three years; not so much when it comes to actually playing football. Scobey's special teams prowess keeps Williams off the roster.
Fred Jackson. He has a year left of practice squad eligibility, which is a good thing - this kid has talent and needs to stick around.
Spreading the wealth is the ideal situation for Buffalo this year. It gives us versatility, it keeps a lot of pressure off of our two rookies and it allows us to maximize Thomas' value to the team. Things are looking up in Buffalo's backfield - so much so, in fact, that the team won't come close to missing McGahee this season.