The Buffalo Bills rushing attack, nominally with Devin Singletary leading the way, was not great. On the flip side, it wasn’t terrible either. At 4.2 yards per rush, the Bills were 0.2 yards below the league average of 4.4 (which also happened to be Singletary’s regular season average). That ranked 21st in the league, but if you roll with my rule of four that’s squarely average. They were 18th in attempts, 20th in yards, and 16th in touchdowns. This could be added to my Zack Moss analysis too, but the bottom line is that Buffalo doesn’t need to make drastic changes to their running game to be successful. With that in mind...
For both running backs the Bills love having them slip out as a safety valve, often starting in the middle and turning so they can shadow Josh Allen. Devin Singletary does well sticking with Allen when he gets in trouble. This can lead to easy chunks, though usually on the small side. As you can see here, by monitoring Allen, Singletary can’t see who is closing in on him from behind. He turns to try to pivot for more yards, but...
Not to undersell the role of an effective running back, but so much hinges on blocking. The miss by Brian Winters on his block turns his shoulder into Dawson Knox, which slows him down and creates an obstacle for Singletary. Knox still gets a piece of 42, but it’s Singletary’s cut that avoids the tackle. I could go on, but the main point remains. The blocking was not the primary reason this gained a decent chunk of yards. Singletary navigates chaos and finds a little room.
A lot of the same principles apply in the passing game. How the play is set up and how the blocking went have a big impact on the final result. With a little space, Singletary can create missed tackles.
Some more of the same, with Singletary effectively cutting and creating some yards. What I like about this play is that he trusts Tyler Kroft to be moving forward and slips behind him. Singletary doesn’t shy away from the narrow lanes and is willing to trust his teammates.
Trust can be a double-edged sword though. One thing I believe I’m seeing on a routine basis is that Devin Singletary goes with a play design’s “Plan A” to a fault. I could be wrong here as I don’t have access to the play call but on this play and many others that weren’t super successful it appears he gets locked into a path or area of the field and doesn’t see better routes. On this one in particular you see his initial path heading to the edge where he has a fantastic angle to follow his blockers. He cuts in and does less well.
This seems similar to some of those above but when I’m suggesting flaws with a runner’s vision or decision making skills, I look to see what their actual vision is like. This contact from the side become remarkable as Singletary never seems to turn his head to see the hit. He reacts about as well as you could ask using what appears to be only his peripheral vision. That suggests a lot of positive things for his actual sight and reaction times.
Finally, pass blocking. Based on the weight difference, Singletary does well. He’s a willing enough blocker too, but his size is a problem. There’s no way to have this conversation without a comparison so let’s just compare. Zack Moss is about 20 lbs heavier than Singletary. I do see Moss as the better blocker, and the Bills seem to agree as my thoughts after watching both players is that they ask Moss to do it quite a bit more often.
Could the Bills find a better running back? Probably. Could they also tweak what they’re doing to make things more effective for Devin Singletary? Oh yes. I do wonder about what Singletary is asked to do, specifically if he’s given the liberty to freestyle a bit. If he is allowed that freedom then I wonder about his decision making on some plays.
Still though, I like his actual field vision and agility. Despite a perfectly average yards-per-carry rate, I came away feeling like that stat would be worse if Singletary didn’t have those positive traits.