After the 2019 running back combo of Devin Singletary and Frank Gore didn’t go as well as hoped, the Buffalo Bills drafted Zack Moss in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Ultimately resulting in a combo of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, this too did not go as well as hoped. We’ve already highlighted some flaws in the blocking game, but let’s check in on the running back side with a look at Moss.
Just to save us all some time, let’s get it out of the way. Blocking is incredibly important for a running back to have success. This was guaranteed to have some success as the “Plan A” lane for Zack Moss is really well established by his teammates. He adds a little more by making a couple guys miss.
To go in the other direction, the unblocked defensive back forces Moss sideways and spinning. With zero forward momentum and another block missed, Moss isn’t going anywhere but to the ground. While blocking is crucial in both outcomes, we can still separate what Moss did in each. In both plays he shows off pretty good vision and reacts to potential tacklers. I’d rate Moss’s play as an overall positive on both snaps. The difference is that in this play his best options are still terrible.
One of the things I heard a lot before the season was the anticipation that Moss would be a good complement to Singletary with a “thunder and lightning approach.” Moss, as the thunder would bring the “boom” and power game with him. Eh, not so much. I like Moss’s balance, and he does tend to cut once and commit. I would then say he is more effective plowing straight ahead than is Singletary. I would not say he is a power runner, however. Notice here that when he hits the pile he stays upright (there’s that balance) and churns his legs. It’s not until a couple of linemen start shoving with him though that he moves forward.
And here’s a good example of the outcome where there’s contact at the line but no linemen in position to help him forge onward. There’s the balance again—he’s tough to bring to the ground—but he’s not adding yards with brute force.
That balance remains solid even on the move. This is a nice cut back to his left. It’s even more impressive with him contorting to protect the ball. There’s the “choose a lane and commit” strategy at work too.
Sticking with the balance theme, this translates to his pass protection. Overall I liked what I saw there. Assuming the protections were set correctly pre-snap or Moss recognized the defense’s intentions, he helped provide Allen some extra time.
Moss was able to get involved in the passing game as well, mostly with these “extended handoff” type plays. Like we saw in the running game, Moss has enough skill to do well with what was given to him. Here there’s some space and that balance came in handy.
Would I love two elite running backs with the ability to make something out of nothing? Yeah, of course. And the Buffalo Bills currently have zero. Despite the numbers though, Zack Moss was not a liability. When given help from his team, there were a lot of things to like in his game. The pass protection was a big plus, especially for a rookie, and when there’s some space he used it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see him make a sophomore jump as he adjusts to the game. What I’m getting at is that there are other problem areas to be worked on that would yield dividends.