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2019 All-22 player analysis: Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore

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A look at Frank Gore’s 2019 season with the Buffalo Bills

Frank Gore will almost certainly end up in Canton and I don’t think anyone reading this needs to be convinced. And, more importantly, you’re probably all familiar with why that is. So just like we did with LeSean McCoy last year, rather than break down what kind of player Gore is, it’s better to see what he had in the tank this year. We’ll start with early season and close with mostly Wild Card round footage to see what it tells us about the legendary running back’s 2019 season with the Buffalo Bills.


Play 1

This play is 3rd-and-13 so take how open Gore is with a grain of salt. It’s likely they were allowing it. No one drew up taking a block like that though. Great pad level and explosion get the credit for that. Once Gore has the ball he slips a little, which limits the gain. I chose this play rather than another devastating block because of that slip. Frank Gore didn’t seem as well-balanced as he has most of his career. One thing that needs to be abundantly clear right away is that Frank Gore in Buffalo was a diminished version in many ways.

Play 2

This looks a lot like the Frank Gore we’ve enjoyed watching for so long. Gore stays tight to his block, does a tiny cut away from one defender, then fights after contact. There’s not much after the hit, but a group tackle will usually do that.

Play 3

Like the last play, Frank Gore follows his block. Unlike the last play, there are a couple lanes that look like they could be an option. Gore selects the best one arguably, uses a similar cut to avoid a possible tackle and has enough momentum to head a bit farther forward even during a big collision. This too looks a lot like what comes to mind when thinking about Frank Gore’s career.

Play 4

“Gore” has always seemed like an apt name for a player who’s run over opponents like a rhino at times. Here’s a bit of that old magic as he dips low and keeps moving to get a bit further downfield.

Play 5

Let’s fast forward to the end of the year when aging players theoretically should be at their worst thanks to aches and pains. And as expected, Frank Gore looks...pretty much the same as in Week 2 against the New York Giants? That can’t be right.

Play 6

Without giving my number, let’s just say I won’t pick on Frank Gore’s age. What I will say, though, is that this play is downright miraculous. Of course I can’t be sure what’s going through his head, but it sure looks like he wants to hit the hole to Mitch Morse’s left at first then decides to cut right at the last second. The jig between Morse’s feet is simply wild. If Feliciano gets a bigger piece of his man, this is a nice run. Feliciano doesn’t though and this will bring down the per-carry average.

Play 7

Another good cut, another lane closes quickly. If you’ll indulge me though, go take a glance through some of these plays again. The vision is still excellent for Gore, his agility and cuts are surprisingly good, but watch the finishes on each of these. Is there a single one where you think the defender is going to think twice about trying to tackle him again? That dominating power wasn’t there this year.

Play 8

This is here to put an exclamation point on that last paragraph. The reaction time to slip that tackle is incredible. I know there’s a pile, but it doesn’t budge. There’s a lot of the old Frank Gore left, but not all.

Play 9

Just to reiterate, this is the 18th week of the season for a 36-year-old running back. There’s a ton to like here.

Play 10

Did I read your mind? Were you thinking, “Of course he looks good, he’s amped up for the playoffs?” Here we are late in the season against an incredible defense. And he still looks much the same. There’s plenty of wiggle left, tons of football intelligence, and a little of the old power.


Summary

I was actually astonished at a lot of the film I was looking at with Frank Gore. Never known for elite agility and change of direction, I figured there wouldn’t be a whole lot of that left. I got that wrong didn’t I? The power running has fallen off though. If not a whole cliff, it’s at least fallen off the roof. I’d still trust Gore to lean forward and force another yard or two, but only if the pile he’s facing is a small one.

A lot of fans feel the predictability of the Buffalo offense is a major culprit. Specifically, the high percentage of carries when Gore is present on the field tips their hand. Gore closed the season with 166 carries on 370 snaps, or 45%. Here’s a table comparing Frank Gore to the top ten running backs (as listed by Pro Football Reference).

Frank Gore vs. Top ten

Player Carries Snaps Percent Y/A
Player Carries Snaps Percent Y/A
Gore 166 370 45% 3.6
Derrick Henry 303 589 51% 5.1
Ezekiel Elliot 301 937 32% 4.5
Nick Chubb 298 715 42% 5
Christian McCaffrey 287 1039 28% 4.8
Chris Carson 278 723 38% 4.4
Joe Mixon 278 653 43% 4.1
Leonard Fournette 265 904 29% 4.3
Dalvin Cook 250 604 41% 4.5
Marlon Mack 247 510 48% 4.4
Sony Michel 247 420 59% 3.7

There are three players with a higher percentage of their snaps being carries, including Derrick Henry who kinda kicked ass this year. There’s three others very near Gore’s percentage. So it’s not predictability, or at least not entirely. I will say I wasn’t a big fan of some of the called runs in the games I watched.

Time to wrap it up, would I try to re-sign Frank Gore? I would not. While I was impressed with the cuts and vision, both are things Devin Singletary has an abundance of. The reduced power is a major factor as that was an important facet of Gore’s career. Next year might see additional drop off. Frank Gore doesn’t bring the additional boom like he used to that I’d like to see as a complementary player. He can still run and at a much higher level than given credit for (even by myself prior to writing this). I just question if he makes the Buffalo Bills a better team.

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