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Buffalo Bills have plenty of questions with LeSean McCoy, other running backs

What is going on at running back?

LeSean McCoy has been the most dynamic player on the Buffalo Bills’ offense since he was acquired via trade from the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2015 NFL season. His speed, elusiveness, and explosiveness are elite and his overall production makes him a near-lock for the Hall of Fame whenever he decides to retire.

However, McCoy turned 30 this offseason and remains embroiled in allegations of robbery and assault from his ex-girlfriend. With changes along the offensive line to boot, it’s been a tumultuous offseason for the Bills top running back.

Our State of the Bills roster series concludes with a look at the running backs as camp kicks off tonight.

LeSean McCoy

  • Contract status: signed; $8.95 million cap hit ($3.7 million savings if released)
  • Age: Turned 30 on 7/12/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 719 snaps (68.35% of offensive snaps)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 287 carries, 1,138 yards (4 YPA), 6 TD, 77 Targets, 59 receptions, 448 yards (7.6 YPC), 2 TD, 3 FUM

McCoy’s number plummeted in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost a step. Age, the allegations against him, a new offensive line, and a new and inexperienced quarterback could all weigh him down in 2018. Buffalo is banking on him being the leader of the offense.

Chris Ivory

  • Contract status: signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract this offseason ($2.5 million cap hit in 2018)
  • Age: Turned 30 on 3/22/18
  • 2017 playing time: 297 snaps (26.38% of offensive total) for Jaguars
  • Key 2017 statistics: 112 rushes, 382 yards, 1 touchdown, 21 receptions, 175 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown for Jacksonville

Without adding anything to special teams, the Bills signed Ivory to a fairly generous contract. It remains to be seen how much he can contribute, but Buffalo wanted a steady hand to replace Mike Tolbert.

Marcus Murphy

  • Contract status: signed; $630,000 cap hit (no money guaranteed)
  • Age: Will turn 27 on 10/3/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 14 snaps (1.33% of offensive snaps), 2 ST snaps (.46%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 7 carries, 41 yards (5.9 YPA), 2 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards (3.5 YPC), 1 kick return, 18 yards

Murphy, who wasn’t even added to the active roster until December 26 of last year, looked at least to be an adequate running back when he went in the game. While watching, I thought that he would make a good future backup for McCoy.

The issue with Murphy is that he isn’t as young as you’d think, but with a lack of NFL carries under his belt, there is far less mileage on his soon-to-be 27-year old legs than the usual NFL runner. Keeping him through training camp, though not a given, would make sense, especially since there is no real penalty for cutting him.

Patrick DiMarco

  • Contract status: signed; $2.05 million cap hit
  • Age: Turned 29 on 4/30/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 265 snaps (25.19% of offensive snaps), 168 ST snaps (38.44%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 2 carries, -2 yards (-1 YPA), 10 targets, 7 receptions, 28 yards (4 YPC)

DiMarco served as the lead blocker for McCoy and company, and he performed adequately. $2 million dollars per year is a lot for a player who only appears on one of every four snaps, especially at a non-premium position such as fullback, but he is a strong overall contributor to the squad, especially when factoring in his special teams value.

Taiwan Jones

  • Contract status: signed a one-year, $880,000 contract this offseason ($720,000 cap hit)
  • Age: Turns 30 on 7/26/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 3 snaps (.29% of offensive snaps), 128 ST snaps (29.29%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 2 targets, 1 catch, 11 yards, 2 kick returns, 50 yards

Jones was one of Buffalo’s main special teams contributors before suffering a broken arm in the Thursday Night affair against the New York Jets. His lone offensive contribution was a catch and run that iced the Bills’ victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Travaris Cadet

  • Contract status: signed a one-year, $880,000 contract this offseason ($720,000 cap hit)
  • Age: Turned 29 on 2/1/2018
  • 2017 Playing time: 103 snaps (9.79% of offensive snaps), 41 ST snaps (9.38%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 22 carries, 93 yards (4.2 YPA), 16 targets, 13 receptions, 93 yards (7.2 YPC)

Cadet was a breath of fresh air for the roster when he signed on November 4. He was a solid receiver and a good enough runner, as his skill set mirror that of McCoy, albeit in a less-dynamic manner. He surpassed Mike Tolbert as McCoy’s primary backup for a few weeks, but then suffered a gruesome ankle injury in Week 16 against the New England Patriots.

Zach Olstad

  • Contract status: signed a three-year, $1.71 million UDFA contract ($480,000 cap hit)
  • Age: Turns 25 on 12/6/18
  • Key 2017 Statistics: Rushing TD, 5 receptions for 44 yards

Limited information is available about the fullback from Winona State. His 2017 stats aren’t even on the school’s website.

Keith Ford

  • Contract status: signed a three-year, $1.71 million UDFA contract ($480,000 cap hit)
  • Age: Turned 24 on 4/18/18
  • Key 2017 Statistics: 139 carries, 548 yards, 12 TDs, 14 receptions, 84 yards for Texas A&M

Ford possesses strong balance as a runner and has a low center of gravity. His poor instincts and anchor in his pass protection duties could get his quarterback killed. Not a patient enough runner, he tends to pick the nearest gap and attempt to run full speed through it. Flashes a decent ability to make quick cuts in the open field in order to avoid tacklers.

Camp Outlook

Beyond the fact that the Bills have an aging group and lots of uncertainty, they have decent NFL-level depth. McCoy is great. If he’s healthy and playing the running backs will be fine. Who will be the third running back? Will they keep a fourth? All of those questions will be answered in short time.