Second only to the competition at quarterback, the logjam of talent in the Buffalo Bills' backfield has been a hot topic during this offseason. At the center of this discussion has been Bryce Brown, the talented 24-year old running back that was traded to the Bills for a fourth-round pick during the 2014 NFL Draft. While many agree that Brown sits on the roster bubble, a positive training camp and preseason could quickly change his situation.
Brown has shown that he is a talented running back, most notably during a two-game stint for Philadelphia in his rookie season of 2012. Filling in for an injured LeSean McCoy, Brown followed up a 178-yard rushing performance against Carolina with a 169-yard game versus Dallas. He averaged over eight yards per carry in these two games, caught eight passes, and ran for three touchdowns. This type of production shows what Brown can do when given the opportunity, displaying big-play ability when highlighted in a feature back role.
In addition to some past success, Brown also has youth on his side, having just turned 24 years old in May. While many consider Fred Jackson to be a near-lock to make the roster, at 34 years old, he is in the twilight of his career. It would be easy to argue that Brown's upside and age would work to his advantage, but those aren't the only factors in the race for a roster spot.
Brown's issues with fumbles have been well documented - and quite possibly overblown - during his career. In Brown's case it may be more about when the fumbles take place, versus how often they occur. I don't need to remind fans about his costly fumble while headed into the end zone against Kansas City last season, and while we mentioned his success against Dallas during his rookie season, it was Brown's late-game fumble that was returned for a touchdown that proved to be a difference in the game.
The competition at running back also works against Brown, as the Bills have others with clearly defined roles. LeSean McCoy is the lead back, and one of the most talented in the league at his position. Jackson is a team captain that also has success as a runner, blocker, and pass-catcher out of the backfield. Anthony Dixon adds stellar play on special teams, and Karlos Williams offers plenty of upside on both offense and special teams. It will all depend on which role the Bills' coaching staff and front office values the most before making a final decision.
Brown has also failed to make a positive impression on the new coaching staff, having been singled out by position coach Anthony Lynn during spring workouts for missing sessions. In Brown's defense, he was attending to a family matter, and the workouts are listed as voluntary. Rex Ryan also refused to mention Brown by name early in his tenure as Bills coach, stating that "I'm not gonna learn his name until he holds on to the football." Add this to the growing list of hurdles for Brown to climb heading into training camp.
I will not be surprised one way or the other by Brown's roster bid this summer. While Brown obviously has talent, it will be interesting to see if he can separate himself from the competition and make a positive impression on the new coaching staff. The competition at running back will obviously be one to monitor during this year's training camp.