The Buffalo Bills have had a very busy offseason. Revamping the offensive line was the clear priority but along the way they’ve searched for help in other areas. That’s where T.J. Yeldon comes into the picture. A four-year player for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Yeldon is the latest free-agent addition and adds some youth to the running back room. Yeldon was never the star of the show in Jacksonville but was fairly productive with the opportunities he was given. Let’s check in to see what he brings to the table.
Even in games where T.J. Yeldon saw a ton of snaps, he wasn’t used as a blocker as often as you might expect. When he was, the phrase “fairly successful” is an apt one. A good initial pop and lots of enthusiasm often meant Yeldon gave his quarterback a little extra time. Imperfect technique leads to some concerns with sustaining blocks, but for a running back the pop is more important.
Interestingly, the blocking flaw that stood out the most was that Yeldon struggled more when helping. On this play he disrupts himself arguably just as much as he does his opponent. When asked to truly team up on a block, he struggled more than he did solo.
Let’s get to some running. T.J. Yeldon seems to have a good handle when something is beyond his limits. This scenario came up regularly, with Yeldon electing to cut back rather than trying to race half the players on the field to the edge. Here it nets a few extra yards.
Whether it’s a miscue or poor ball placement, Yeldon needs to adjust to this pass. He does so while still having the concentration to maintain momentum and solid catching mechanics. The balance and tenacity at the end of the play add yards as well. Orlando Scandrick (number 22) has a good bead on Yeldon for the open-field tackle but fails to bring him down.
Rather than blocking, T.J. Yeldon was often asked to slip out as a safety valve. Yeldon consistently keeps his focus where it needs to be and moves to help out when he can. It’s subtle in this clip, but Yeldon takes a quick peek at the defense while moving to take the best path to get a few extra yards.
Like above, Yeldon cuts back inside to get whatever yards he can out of this play. He shows off some balance a couple times getting bumped while maintaining speed. It’s easy to like the vision displayed in this clip as well.
Take everything from the previous play and apply it here. Also take a close look at the two pauses as T.J. Yeldon breaks the arm tackles. In both cases minor upper body movements help Yeldon force the would-be tacklers’ hands to slip off.
The main takeaway from this is to reinforce that Yeldon sees the field well. Recognizing how the play will develop, he calls for the ball immediately and is rewarded with a touchdown. The twist and catch is a heck of an effort too.
Despite both crossing the age barrier of 30, the tandem of LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore are a heck of a pairing to have to sit behind. And it’s likely that “as is” T.J. Yeldon would be behind both in the depth chart. Based on 2018, Gore is still the better all-around back. McCoy had a rough season but an improved line should mean he’s still the biggest big-play threat of the group.
None of this is to disparage T.J. Yeldon. There’s no shame in being behind two of the best of all-time. Yeldon is a good back who can be effectively used in a variety of ways. He also provides tremendous insurance in case one of the more venerable backs falls of a cliff (or is cut, traded or injured).