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Despite run game woes, Bills aren’t rushing James Cook into action

The second-round rookie doesn’t seem poised to take on a larger role

Buffalo Bills Training Camp Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Buffalo Bills don’t have a very effective running game outside of quarterback Josh Allen.

Since head coach Sean McDermott came to Orchard Park, NY in 2017, the Bills have consistently found themselves below league average in expected points per rush. 2022 has proven to be no exception thus far.

While the old adage of “run and stop the run” doesn’t correlate with success in the modern NFL as much as “pass and stop the pass,” anything an offense does should be geared toward completing that task effectively—and the Bills once again find themselves struggling to get consistent effectiveness in their rushing game.

That continuation of futility has led many to wonder if they should #letJamesCook, a reference to 2022 second-round pick, running back James Cook, out of Georgia. A dynamic athlete with traits not found in either running backs Devin Singletary or Zack Moss, Cook hasn’t been involved in the offense to this point the way that some had envisioned he might.

Billed coming out of the SEC as the best pass-catching back in his class, Cook had questions about his between-the-tackles aptitude and the fact that he had never been a full-time player at Georgia. Through four games, he’s offered little in the way of tangible evidence that he could help cure what ails the mostly toothless Buffalo rushing attack. But Cook’s college scouting report, combined with the ineffectiveness of run blocking (the Bills currently rank dead last in the league in both ESPN’s “run-block win rate” metric and Pro Football Focus’ run-block grade), has led to more muted outcry about getting him involved than might be the case with other second-round rookies.

Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey didn’t feel particular urgency to get Cook involved soon either. “He’s a young guy who’s continuing to get his feet wet,” said Dorsey, as reported by Sal Capaccio of WGR 550. “I have a lot of faith in James. He’s got a lot of confidence in his ability...he’s in a position where we don’t have to throw too much on him right away...there are things you see from him that he’s done in the past that give you a lot of confidence. We need to continue to develop him and get him going, and do those things through’s such a game-to-game thing.”

Dorsey mentioning that the team doesn’t have to throw too much at Cook right away speaks to his confidence in the other two running backs on the team. Mike Kaye of Pro Football Network reported around roster cutdown time that Moss was “primed to be dealt” before Aaron Wilson (also of PFN) reported that per a league source, the odds of Buffalo moving Moss were “zero”. This show of confidence in the incumbent running backs on the roster is backed up by Dorsey’s comments and the snap counts thus far in 2022. Through four games, Cook has been on the field for a mere 12% of offensive snaps, per Pro Football Reference, compared to 69% for Singletary and 20% for Moss.

The Bills clearly don’t feel rushed (pun intended) to get Cook involved. Their actions and words reflect this idea. The data indicates the solution to the rushing issue may not be solely at the running back position, and the Bills may agree, so holding our breath for a feature role for Cook may cause a “color rush” to be more than just a jersey term for many in Bills Mafia.

...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!