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AFC East Roundup: A safe haven for running backs

There are definitely a fair share of interesting running backs in the AFC East

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

They may not be getting paid like it in the NFL these days, but running back is one of the most important positions in football. Not only can they take pressure of their quarterback and open up the play-action passing game, but running backs can also act as a safety valve underneath for the quarterback to beat the blitz. As the 2023 NFL season draws closer, there are certainly some interesting running backs in the division, especially with news that came out on Monday evening.

The Buffalo Bills will rely on second-year running back James Cook to lead the charge at running back this season. Cook had an up-and-down rookie season that started with a fumble on his first career touch. He has the ability to not only be a threat as a runner, but also in the passing game. In last weekend’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts, Cook showed his speed in getting to the edge on an eight-yard touchdown run to get the Bills on the board. Behind Cook on the depth chart is an interesting pair of veteran running backs. Damien Harris is currently nursing a hamstring injury, but figures prominently into the team’s plan at running back this season. Then there’s Latavius Murray who’s actually the oldest active running back in the league. Murray isn’t letting age define him, as he’s proven dominant during practice, especially in the short-yardage rushing attack.

From one Cook we turn to another, as it was announced Monday evening that Dalvin Cook will sign a one-year deal with the New York Jets. Dalvin is the older brother of James and is coming off a season where he rushed for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. He adds yet another significant threat to the Jets’ offense especially with his quarterback being Aaron Rodgers. The talent doesn’t end there of course, with the return of running back Breece Hall at some point this season following an ACL tear in 2022. Before his injury last season, Hall had four touchdowns and was averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Hall could have very well been on his way to earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. For Buffalo, they may not see either of those running backs in Week 1. Hall still hasn’t practiced yet, while Cook is still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery in February.

The New England Patriots also made a running back signing this week, grabbing Ezekiel Elliot on a one-year deal. Zeke was a force to be dealt with during his time with the Dallas Cowboys, especially in short-yardage situations. While Elliot had a career-low 876 rushing yards last season, he did manage 12 touchdowns. His running mate will be Rhamondre Stevenson, who’s making a name for himself in the league after being a fourth-round pick in 2021. Last season, Stevenson had over 1,000 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Stevenson is a dual-threat running back as well — having added 69 catches in 2022.

The Miami Dolphins who are running it back with the same running back duo as last season. They have Raheem Mostert, who gave the Buffalo Bills a run for their money in the regular season game last year. In that game in Orchard Park, NY, Mostert rushed for 136 yards on 17 carries and took a lot of pressure off the offense on a cold night in December. Re-joining him in the backfield is Jeff Wilson Jr. who rushed for 860 yards in 2022. Wilson is also valuable in the passing attack, with 22 catches last season.