The Buffalo Bills struggled to find rhythm in the run game during the 2020 NFL season. After the team averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2019, the team’s per-carry average dropped just a bit to 4.2 yards per rush. That drop-off felt much steeper while watching the games than the actual measurement would indicate, as it seemed that the Bills struggled to gain tough yards on the ground any time they were needed.
This isn’t necessarily the fault of the running backs themselves, though, as the offensive line went through various changes throughout the season thanks to injury and the Bills transitioned to a successful, pass-heavy attack. While the fault may not completely lie with the running backs, it’s fair to say that Buffalo’s ball carriers need to perform better this season.
In today’s installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile one of the two backs expected to lead a two-headed rushing attack this season.
Name: Zack Moss
Height/Weight: 5’9” 205 lbs
Age: 23 (24 on 12/15/2021)
Experience/Draft: 2; selected by Buffalo in the third round (No. 86 overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft
Acquired: Third-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Moss enters the second year of his rookie contract, a four-year pact worth a total of $4,612,316. For the 2021 season, Moss carries a salary cap hit of $1,048,255, and the Bills would be responsible for a dead-cap charge of $685,812 if he were released or cut.
2020 Recap: At the onset of the season, it appeared that Moss would fill the complementary role vacated by veteran Frank Gore from the year prior, serving as the relief back to starter Devin Singletary. In Buffalo’s first two games, Singletary started and saw a majority of the offensive snaps (85 to Moss’s 67), but Moss saw plenty of touches. He had 17 carries for 48 yards and three catches for 16 yards (on four targets) in those first two games. A bout with turf toe led Moss to miss Buffalo’s next three games, but he returned against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6. By Week 8, Moss started a streak of four consecutive games (and five out of the next six) where he saw more snaps than Singletary did in the offensive backfield. Moss did not start one regular-season game, but he did start Buffalo’s first playoff game, a 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round. Moss had 11 touches and 47 yards in that game, but he injured his ankle in the fourth quarter and was placed on injured reserve shortly thereafter. Moss had surgery to repair the ankle in January. On the season, Moss was second to Singletary in carries (112), rushing yards (481), and yards per attempt (4.3), but he did run for more touchdowns (4) than Singletary (2) did. Moss added 14 receptions on 18 targets for a total of 95 yards and one touchdown.
Positional outlook: Moss and Singletary look like they’ll be 1A and 1B in the backfield, with the letter designation changing game-to-game and perhaps even series-to-series. Matt Breida joined the team in the T.J. Yeldon role, and Christian Wade and Antonio Williams remain as intriguing, albeit inexperienced, options. Reggie Gilliam has moved to fullback.
2021 Offseason: Moss began training camp listed as “limited,” but he has shown no ill effects from his offseason surgery thus far.
2021 Season outlook: I’m looking at the running back position as a two-horse race—not because I’m not intrigued by what Brieda can bring to the room, but because nobody on the Bills is talking about the veteran as of yet. Moss is more a straight-ahead power runner, whereas Singletary does a little too much dancing for head coach Sean McDermott’s liking. Both players are limited in that they lack breakaway speed, but both are tough, agile runners who are capable of catching passes and picking up chunks of yardage in space. I’ve seen lots of speculation this offseason suggesting that Moss will become the RB1, but I don’t see this team having a top running back in the traditional sense. Moss and Singletary are going to rotate heavily throughout games, which is going to limit their fantasy football value, but should keep them fresh throughout the course of a game. While it wouldn’t surprise me to see Moss start some more games this year, I expect that he’ll still split carries and touches with Singletary for much of the campaign.