Upon first glance, the Buffalo Bills have an embarrassment of riches at the running back position. A potential Hall of Fame player tops the depth chart, followed by a hodgepodge of athletic specimens. If Reggie Bush is the Ferrari of the group, then Karlos Williams is the Denali, supplying power and uncommon grace and speed for such a big, brutal runner. Jonathan Williams has a similar skill set as Karlos, although he wants everyone to know that he isn’t solely a power runner. Rounding out with Mike Gillislee and James Wilder, Jr., the Bills would seem to have the makings of a fantastic backfield for any situation.
Alas, these are the Bills, and nothing can be easy, nor can we just enjoy our nice things. McCoy has been remarkably durable over his career, but he is 28, and with 1,996 NFL touches on his resume, the tread on the tires may not be worn yet, but they certainly could be due to begin to fray. The sagas of the gentlemen Williams and Williams are well documented, with Karlos’s weight requiring counsel from yet another Williams, and Jonathan’s DWI arrest making a suspension probable, although unlikely this year. And oh, you might have heard that Karlos is suspended for the first month of the season for violating the substance abuse policy, too.
Gillislee was the darling of last year’s late-season disappointment, but he established himself more as a home-run hitter than a consistent producer. Of his 267 yards, he combined for 173 of them on his longest carries of each respective game. On his other 42 carries, he gained 94 yards. James Wilder, Jr. has not stood out, according to reports, so his already long shot may be growing even longer. (Although, to his credit, he was the subject of a pretty great photo during individual drills).
If this were Madden and we could merely pretend that the suspension and looming suspension of Williams and Williams did not exist, this backfield could be entirely dominant. However, it seems fair to wonder whether or not this group could be one injury away from being perilously thin yet again, especially in the wake of “Los” making bad decision after bad decision. It seems unfair to put so much blame on a young player, but Karlos’ history of bad decision making from his days in college do not seem to show any signs of stopping.
The team grabbed what it feels is a solid insurance policy in Bush, and seems to be rolling the dice on the fact that any Jonathan Williams discipline will occur after Karlos has already finished serving his own. Their skill sets are remarkably similar, with Karlos possessing better top-end speed (4.48 40 time to JW’s 4.59) and Jonathan possessing more short burst speed and agility (4.29 short shuttle/6.97 cone to KW’s 4.46 shuttle/7.16 cone). Having both on the roster doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose, although Greg Roman’s system does require backs who are unafraid to dole out punishment. It wouldn’t be wise to send your Ferrari into the mess and muck of the trenches, but is the only thing better than having one Denali investing in a second, slightly newer model?
Has the team done enough to cover its bases? Should they do more to ensure that Karlos Williams stays on the “straight and narrow” from here out? Or, should they chalk it up to the poor decision-making of the young, while remaining hopeful that he grows out of it, a la Marcell Dareus? On the very negative end, what happens if Karlos does not return to form even after his suspension, and Jonathan Williams is then suspended? The Bills could go from Jay Leno’s garage to mine in no time.