When it came to running the ball during the 2018 season, the Buffalo Bills’ ball-carriers not named Josh Allen struggled to find holes behind the team’s patchwork offensive line. Allen ran 89 times for 631 yards with eight touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry while leading the team in rushing yards, touchdowns, and yards per carry.
The two primary running backs—LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory—were mostly bottled up, with McCoy averaging 3.2 yards per carry (514 yards on 161 rushes), while Ivory fared only slightly better, averaging 3.3 yards per carry (385 yards on 115 rushes).
Knowing the Bills needed to improve their run game for second-year quarterback Allen to continue his progression as a signal caller, general manager Brandon Beane used free agency and the NFL Draft to build their ground game around Allen.
Buffalo was extremely active in free agency, bringing in six free agents: Mitch Morse, Quinton Spain, Ty Nsekhe, Spencer Long, Jon Feliciano, and LaAdrian Waddle. The team then traded up to add first-round talent Cody Ford, a mauler and one of the best and most complete offensive tackles available in the draft, with pick No. 38 in the second round.
The additions to the offensive line were part of Beane’s concerted effort to improve an offensive line that woefully underperformed in 2018.
“We made a concerted effort in free agency to add pieces, a lot at the o-line,” said Beane in April. “We were not happy with our o-line play. It was inconsistent. It was good at times last year. There was an effort to fix a lot of that in free agency. We also wanted to add youth. We believe in winning up front. There were frustrating times with some of the games we didn’t win last year, I think it came down to losing the battle up front. I said if nothing else, this year we’re going to fix that.”
The second part of the equation, according to Beane, was to bring in more competition for McCoy, who endured the worst statistical season of his decorated career, setting career-worsts in rushing yards and yards per carry while scoring only three touchdowns on the ground—his second-worst output of his career.
Enter the ageless veteran Frank Gore, a future Hall of Famer who averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2018 with the Miami Dolphins.
The Bills also signed versatile back T.J. Yeldon, who has averaged 43 receptions out of the backfield and 4.0 yards per carry during a four-year career, and drafted Devin Singletary with the No. 74 pick in the third round as a shifty and dynamic running back whose style bears a resemblance to Shady.
“We drafted Josh last year and we saw some of his strengths, but some of the things we didn’t feel, and we, I’m putting it on me, didn’t do a good enough job with personnel around him to help him be the best version of himself on the field. So there has been a conscious effort to shore up the o-line and shore up the offense to help him be more successful,” Beane said.