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James Cook gets heavy workload for Bills against Patriots

How did he do with the increased opportunity?

Buffalo Bills Training Camp Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills comfortably took down the New England Patriots much to the enjoyment of Bills fans. During the win, rookie running back James Cook saw his heaviest usage of the season. It’s too early to tell if this was a specific game-plan change, or a more permanent move. That won’t stop us from breaking down his film and looking for answers. So how did the rookie do?

James Cook vs. the giant turf monster

Let’s get the bad out of the way right now. I’m not sure what the deal is, because I’m about to compliment his agility and acceleration, which are usually correlated with “not tripping our of nowhere.” For some reason, James Cook tripped out of nowhere—enough to be a pattern. On this play it likely cost some yards, as some of the clips below are likely to convince you that he hits that gap if he stays upright.

Cook gets downfield in a hurry

This isn’t a jet-taking-off kind of acceleration. But it’s a gear change we’re not used to seeing too often in the Bills’ backfield. We’re also not done highlighting it. There’s also a nifty little change of direction after he turns upfield to check out.

Cook displays elite traits between the tackles

See? Check out that acceleration. This play also convinces me he could have made the cut on Play 1. I went back and forth on how to show this clip. There are multiple nice cuts/lane changes. There’s instant acceleration. There’s both good vision and reaction time. Rather than pause this a ton of times though, I felt it was best to watch mostly full speed and toss out half-a-dozen things to tell you to look for as you repeat the GIF.

Seeking contact isn’t the best idea for James Cook

Here’s another negative. Cook’s contact balance seemed alright. He’s not dropped the second he makes contact, for example. He did seem to struggle moving after contact, which makes sense for a 190-pound player. Surviving contact isn’t his strong suit.

But Cook can still take on players his own size

To pair with that last sentiment though, it’s not for lack of trying. Here he’s blocking for Devin Singletary with a player that’s more of an equal match in the physics department. Cook sets himself up well for the block and delivers.

James Cook, the Mythbusters bull

On this play, James Cook reminds me of a bull in a China shop. Not the usual meaning of that phrase though. More like an actual bull such as the one in the MythBusters experiment that showed it was unnervingly nimble and adept at avoiding contact even in narrow spaces.

Cook utilizing patience and vision to make something out of nothing

Last but not least, we have something I didn’t expect to see from a rookie looking to use speed and agility to get yards. He pauses a moment to let the block develop then bursts through the hole. It likely turns a nothing into a short gain.

In summary

James Cook doesn’t appear to be an all-purpose type of running back. I don’t think he’ll ever dominate goal line carries. But that’s okay because he’s a good finesse player who can make something out of nothing by slipping through the tiniest lanes and accelerating to daylight (if it exists). Cook also catches well and provides a reasonable safety-valve target for quarterback Josh Allen. Will that be enough to translate into James Cook becoming the feature back? Personally, I think matchup-dependent schemes will mean the committee approach will still be prominent. But Cook did make a decent case for himself moving forward, with his play in Week 13.