Four weeks into the 2022 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills find themselves dead last in ESPN’s run block win rate percentage and stand as the most pass-heavy offense in the league. Buffalo has had issues with the run game the past three seasons, but with defenses ramping up usage of Cover-2 shell defenses to limit deep passes, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey needs to continue finding ways to move the ball down the field. That answer seems to lay in throwing the ball to running back Devin Singletary and letting him create some magic.
“The short passing game is our running game” rhetoric has changed this year, with the focused inclusion of Singletary as a valuable pass catcher. Let’s take a deeper dive into the advanced stats of this idea.
Run me if you can
Plain and simple, Dorsey doesn’t trust his run game in favorable situations and has decided to work around the issue. There’s no reason to expect he’d continue jamming square pegs in round holes. Eight running backs have posted more carries than the Bills’ entire RB room combined. Buffalo remains the only team without a rushing touchdown by a running back. Learning from last year’s offense under Brian Daboll, Dorsey has abandoned running the ball in 2nd/3rd & Short situations. Understandably so, seeing that the pair of backs behind Singletary have inflated their numbers with one big run each, and Josh Allen is converting 50% of his scrambles and rushing attempts into first downs.
Through four games, Singletary is tied with Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler for the league lead the league among running backs in catches producing first downs (9). But Singletary has done so with 10 fewer receptions. This mark ties Singletary’s total from each of his first two seasons, and puts him on pace to shatter his career high set last year (14).
According to Pro Football Focus, he’s also third in the NFL with five missed tackles forced as a receiver—also on pace to blow his previous career best (10) out of the water. This type of dynamic play out of the backfield feels like finding the missing piece from the last two years. The stats seem to back up the eye test. When Singletary is given the ball in open space, it seems to lead to positive results. When he or Moss run up the middle, it feels like a wasted play—and it almost always is, as the Bills have produced just one run of 10 or more yards when running a halfback between the tackles. The threat of Allen’s legs and franchise arm frees up Singletary to occupy space where it opens up. Whether the defense is playing a soft zone or blitzing an extra man, there will be room to operate and make tacklers miss. This space isn’t there when the team attempts traditional run plays, and it poses a threat to overly conservative and aggressive coaches alike.
“Save” is a strong word, but utilizing Singletary in a more efficient ways both conceals Buffalo’s running deficiencies and bolsters the passing attack with an elite check-down option. Dorsey has seen the Bills falter when forced to play the short game, and this is his counter. Give the ball to your playmakers in space and let them make plays.