The Buffalo Bills have one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses. The fact that they’ve accomplished this as, essentially, a one-dimensional attack over the better part of the last two seasons is downright impressive. Sure, establishing the running game isn’t the necessity that it was in the ‘80s or ‘90s, but it certainly helps to be able to display a little balance.
That balance was on display towards the end of the 2021 season, as the Bills were finally able to find their footing in the ground game. Eschewing the rotation-heavy backfield they’d displayed for most of head coach Sean McDermott’s tenure, they allowed Devin Singletary to be the lead back, and he answered the call.
In the offseason, the team definitely had a “type” of running back they wanted to add, as they tried to sign veteran J.D. McKissic (himself more receiver than rusher) before the deal ultimately fell through. Buffalo added another receiving back through free agency before adding another in the NFL Draft.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we’ll profile yet another running back who profiles more as a receiver than a rusher for the Bills.
Name: Raheem Blackshear
Height/Weight: 5’9” 198 lbs
Experience/Draft: R; signed with Bills as UDFA on 5/13/2022
College: Virginia Tech
Acquired: Signed as UDFA
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Blackshear’s contract is a three-year deal with $15,000 guaranteed. If he makes the final roster, he’ll carry a cap hit of $710,000 for the 2022 season.
2021 Recap: As a fifth-year NCAA athlete in his second season at Virginia Tech, Blackshear had his most productive year of college ball. He carried 133 times for 757 yards (5.7 yards per-carry average) and six rushing touchdowns. He added 25 receptions for 249 yards and another touchdown. That gave him 1006 scrimmage yards on 158 touches—good for 6.4 yards per touch. He appeared in all 13 games, the second consecutive year he played every game on his team’s schedule.
Positional outlook: Blackshear enters a crowded backfield that seems to have a clear top back (Singletary), a receiving specialist (James Cook), a special teams mainstay (Taiwan Jones), a change-of-pace reserve (Zack Moss), and a veteran insurance policy (Duke Johnson) already set in stone. The only other player at the positional group is Reggie Gilliam, the team’s lone fullback and special teams mainstay.
2022 Season outlook: Blackshear is an intriguing name with a particular set of skills, skills that make him a nightmare for defensive coordinators like the ones Buffalo will face. If they cover him with a corner, there may be no problems. He’ll be handled and the team can rest easily. But if they cover him with a linebacker or a safety, he can expose them, and when he does...it could lead to disaster for opposing teams. I’d watch him as a priority practice squad addition once final cuts are made, as Buffalo’s backfield is most likely to wind up with Singletary, Cook, Moss, Jones, and Gilliam at the top come September.