A long-standing joke for the Buffalo Bills involved the age of their running back group, and particularly starters. That might be over as the Bills selected former Utah back Zack Moss in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Being billed already as the thunder to Devin Singletary’s lightning, let’s do what the headline suggests and check the film.
Let’s start with pass blocking. This is one of Zack Moss’s effective blocks as he buys a decent amount of time. That’s not to say there aren’t any concerns however. The first contact doesn’t occur until 1.5 seconds after the snap. He recovers from the initial shove but is then beaten around the edge. Still, though—running backs just need to slow down the pass rush, which he did.
Here’s another one. I’ll let everyone digest how well it went on their own. This was not uncommon and if there’s a glaring weakness in Zack Moss’s game you’re looking at it.
Any regular readers know that I rarely watch college football, with most of the viewing post-draft for the last couple years coming as I do cram sessions for these articles. With several outlets suggesting Moss would be the thunder to Singletary’s lightning I was expecting a pile-pusher. That does not seem to be the case. Major credit is deserved here for not only staying up after contact, but attempting to spin and drive backwards. But overall when Moss hit a wall he was strong enough to buy more time, but not quite strong enough to get more yards. He’s about to hit walls composed of much larger and stronger material in the NFL and I’m not optimistic he will be able to become a bulldozer.
That’s all the bad news I have for everyone. Just look at this change of direction! That’s pretty insane to plant and drive back while another player attempts a bear hug. The violence of the cut back frees Moss and off he goes.
I mentioned balance above in that it allows Zack Moss to stay upright even when facing a wall of defenders. Against one defender, his balance and center of gravity allows a consistently different result. That’s a hard hit to the thigh and Moss barely slows down as he’s not wrapped up. The second defender is able to wrap but also nearly ricochets off the thigh himself.
Zack Moss displays good vision on available film and doesn’t often allow a clean hit. A stutter step into a spin and dive for extra yardage. A run for no gain nearly leads to a first down because of Moss’s presence of mind.
Similar idea but even more crazy. Zack Moss whips around, manages to get an arm down and hops for more yards in what looked like a tackle for a loss.
Most often, Zack Moss leaked out through the middle for safety-valve type passes, but tosses to the sides weren’t uncommon either. Moss appears to be sure handed and a good hands catcher. When he has the ball he turns and accelerates well. There’s that spin move again. Twice. It’s his go to, which isn’t problematic because it’s often effective.
Zack Moss uses his excellent field vision to brace for impact with his shoulder. Combined with his balance and determination, and you get runs like this. You also notice in this play and others that Moss finds lanes effectively and powers into them when he makes his decision.
Based on the immediate hype surrounding Zack Moss I have to say he was not the player I was expecting. The surprise was far from unpleasant however. Rather than a stark contrast to the Buffalo Bills’ current roster of running backs, Moss provides similar traits that should allow the team to swap players to let fresh legs take over.
This sounds problematic on the surface as it could lead to less variety in the running game. However, I challenge Bills fans to recall what happened when the team was called on to push a pile in short yardage situations. While much blame was pointed at Frank Gore, the reality was that the team as a whole was not suited to overpowering the opposing defense.
As a result, it’s arguably a bigger benefit to maintain the offense that works rather than swapping in a more power-oriented player who tips the offense’s hand and plays to the Bills’ weaknesses. Put another way, if you’re good enough at what you do well it will continue to work. Zack Moss allows the Bills to continue to do what they do well, with perhaps an added wrinkle here and there.