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State of the Bills Roster: Running Backs

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Lynch spearheads talented group (

The "State of the Bills Roster" series trucks on! If you're new around these parts within the past nine months or so, this series is an off-season progression of posts in which we'll break down Buffalo's roster in-depth. From these discussions, we'll put together a "Community Needs List" in priority order, then begin researching potential free agent and draft acquisitions that will satisfy all of the Bills' needs as we perceive them.

Hey - at least this way, we're doing the job right. Right? Unlike a certain front office we're forced to support.

And now, we continue our foray into heavy-duty off-season work at Buffalo Rumblings. It's our "State of the Roster" series, off-season mode, and we'll continue the discussions by breaking down the situation at Buffalo's running back position.
  Previous installments: QB

Opening statement
News flash: the Buffalo Bills have one of the better one-two running back punches in the entire NFL. Few running back tandems give as much effort as Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson; both runners have made names for themselves as guys who will claw for every inch of real estate they can cover, play in and play out. That's the good news. The bad news is that these two aren't the focal point of Buffalo's offense. That needs to change in 2009.

#23 Marshawn Lynch (starter)
  5'11", 215 pounds
  Age: 23 in April 2009
  Contract status: 4 years remaining, 4th year voidable (UFA after 2011); owed $2.655M in base salaries
- He runs hard. He works hard. He's the heartbeat of Buffalo's offense. He's here for the foreseeable future, and that's a good thing for Bills football. The only knock I have on Lynch is that due to his running style, he's a guy who needs a dependable backup, because he's going to be banged up a lot. Otherwise, Marshawn is great.

#22 Fred Jackson
  6'1", 215 pounds
  Age: 28 in February 2009
  Contract status: Exclusive Rights Free Agent
- Because Jackson served as an emergency quarterback for the Bills early last season, he technically has less than two years' accrued NFL experience, meaning the Bills retain exclusive negotiation rights during Jackson's upcoming free agency. He plays like he's been in the league for a decade, though he still makes some curiously bad decisions on kick returns. Still, he's one of Buffalo's most valuable "backups" by a long shot, and even at age 28, he's got a lot of tread on his tires.

#25 Xavier Omon
  5'11", 220 pounds
  Age: 24 in February 2009
  Contract status: 3 years remaining (UFA after 2011); fiscal terms undisclosed.
- Sure, he beat out Dwayne Wright in the pre-season for this third running back gig, but that had a lot more to do with Wright's fumble-itis than anything Omon did. He was inactive for much of this season, and when he got chances, he was highly unremarkable. It's too early to give up on the kid - he was making the leap from DII to the NFL, after all - but there are serious doubts about how much he could shoulder if both Lynch and Jackson were dinged up.

#42 Bruce Hall
  5'11", 210 pounds
  Age: 24 in March 2009
  Contract status: Undisclosed.
- He was on the practice squad until Week 17, when he was called up thanks to Marshawn's shoulder injury. Yeah, he'll probably be around in training camp next year - these types of guys typically get two-year deals - but he's clearly not a big part of the team's future at this position.

#38 Corey McIntyre
  6'0", 244 pounds
  Age: 30 in January 2009
  Contract status: Undisclosed.
- Chances are good that McIntyre, a mid-season acquisition at fullback, is on a one-year deal that's just expired, meaning he's an unrestricted free agent. I highly doubt he returns. He was good on special teams, but his lead blocking left a lot to be desired - and that's an understatement.

The Breakdown
Keepers: Lynch. Modest contract, hard-working player that could play for most teams in the league. Enough said.

Extendables: Jackson. He's exclusive, I know, but the Bills should make extending Jackson one of their top priorities this off-season. Lynch makes Jackson better, and Jackson makes Lynch better. This duo needs to stay together if they can be the featured tandem of Buffalo's offense in 2009.

Expendables: Omon, Hall, McIntyre. As far as I'm concerned, none of these guys offer any tangible value to the team in any facet of the game. All three can be upgraded.

Questionables: None.

Goners: None.

What we need: First and foremost, we need a blocking fullback. To be more specific, we need a blocking fullback that can block. Nothing would help out our terrific tandem more than a guy who'll make it so that the duo doesn't have to earn their yardage on effort alone. It would also be nice to see the Bills explore a far more viable third running back option than Omon - Lynch and Jackson have been banged up a times, and their depth has been severely limited in those moments. I'm not talking about a specific style of back, either; really, I'm talking about a Mewelde Moore-type pickup that can make plays if pressed into action. Lynch is fine, and if Jackson is extended, the Bills can find someone viable as a third back, and a solid blocker is added, this unit could be one of the best running back groups in the entire league.

That's it. I'm done with the easy stuff. Now it's on you, folks. Do you agree that Jackson deserves an extension? Should the Bills explore upgrades over Omon and McIntyre? Have any names of potential additions you'd like to throw into the ring? Have fun with this, and let's get brainstorming.