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Josh Allen doesn’t need to run the football less

The rest of the team just needs to run it better

Buffalo Bills v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Put simply, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is a prolific runner of the football. It’s a significant part of what makes him one of the NFL’s best players and playmakers.

Allen’s legs were a chief instigator behind the Bills’ come-from-behind, 23-20 road win over the Baltimore Ravens yesterday. After a sluggish start in which the offense committed two turnovers and looked one-dimensional and out of sync in falling behind 20-3, Allen helped the offense find its balance—and started producing points—by pacing Buffalo in rushing yardage for the third time in four games this season. Allen carried 11 times for 70 yards and a touchdown that tied the game back up 20-20 in the third quarter.

This trend of Allen leading the Bills in rushing yardage is not a new development. In 71 career games with the Bills, including playoff appearances, Allen has led his team in rushing yardage 22 times. He is perhaps doing it at a more-frequent-than-comfortable clip thus far in 2022, but this is something that Allen did six times in 2020, and seven times a season ago.

The Bills are a better team when Allen is effectively running the football. That’s not something that Bills fans should be actively wishing away. We’re talking about a player who, at the age of 26 and in just his fifth season in the league, already ranks 15th in Bills franchise history in rushing yards (2,508) and a shocking third in rushing touchdowns (33), where he trails only Hall of Fame running backs Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson.

Allen is, and should remain, a significant player in Buffalo’s overall rushing identity. He headlines a pass-first offense that only needs a complementary rushing attack to keep defenses honest, and it’s inevitable that Allen will need to provide that complementary element himself on occasion. The Bills merely need to find a way to make those occasions rarer.

That has proven to be difficult for the Bills thus far this season, just as it has for long stretches of the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Part of the reason for the underwhelming productivity this season has been rotating personnel along the offensive line; left guard Rodger Saffold, center Mitch Morse, right guard Ryan Bates, and right tackle Spencer Brown have all missed significant chunks of practice and playing time either throughout training camp or due to injury through the first four games.

Devin Singletary continues to operate as the lead running back, chiefly due to his consistency as a player. Zack Moss has logged only 16 carries through four games. Rookie second-round pick James Cook only has 13, the vast majority of which occurred while running out the clock in a 41-7 drubbing of the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. All three backs have lost fumbles already this season. Singletary is almost on the field by default at this point, despite his only averaging 3.8 yards per carry thus far, because he is simply the most reliable back on the roster.

The Bills have not received proper return for their NFL Draft investments on those three players, but that’s a bigger-picture concern; the ask is much smaller in the context of this offense’s identity. One of these guys needs to provide a consistent threat when Allen hands him the football. Singletary has had stretches where he’s done exactly that; he’s alone among his peers in that regard.

Until Buffalo’s offensive line improves (particularly on the right side), and until one or more of the running backs on the roster picks up their game and provides more punch for the rushing attack, Allen is more than capable of picking up the slack when needed. It’s fair to question how long he’ll be able to do that and continue to hold up physically, which adds some urgency to fixing the Bills’ rushing attack.

If and when the Bills do find more consistency on the ground, however, there’s no reason to then completely remove Allen from that equation. He’s too good with the ball in his hands to not be involved.