The Buffalo Bills made some big changes to their backfield this offseason, allowing top back Devin Singletary to leave in free agency and bringing on a pair of bigger veterans to help in short-yardage situations and add a new dimension to the ground game.
But one of those veterans may have to wait to make his season debut, one insider predicts.
The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia wrote that running back Latavius Murray is a top candidate for the inactive list for the September 11 matchup against the New York Jets. The Bills enter the game with a fully healthy active roster, meaning they will need to make some difficult decisions on who to dress for the game and who to leave inactive. Buscaglia believes that Murray could end up as one of the players left out.
‘Tricky’ Situation for Bills
Buscaglia wrote that there will be some tough decisions ahead for the Bills as they determine which five players to leave inactive for Monday Night Football. He speculated that it would come down to Murray or backup safety Damar Hamlin.
“Without Murray, the Bills would leave themselves thin with only two running backs on game day,” he wrote. “The Bills had three running backs active (not including Taiwan Jones) in 17 of their 18 contests in 2022 — with Week 6 against the Chiefs being the lone exception. But in 2021, it was more of the norm, as they dressed two running backs in 14 of their 19 contests.”
But Buscaglia added that Hamlin has been a regular on special teams and could provide depth if Micah Hyde is bothered by the back injury that had him limited in practice earlier in the week.
There could be another intangible factor, Buscaglia added.
“The emotional aspect of allowing Hamlin to dress in his first regular-season game back without a significant role is a piece of the puzzle,” he wrote, noting Hamlin’s long journey to recovery after suffering cardiac arrest on the field against the Cincinnati Bengals in January. “Ultimately, I think they’ll make Hamlin active. Plus, Cook’s Week 1 role may wind up being bigger than we’re used to for a Bills running back, lowering the need for a third back to take snaps. However, it’s a close one no matter how you look at it.”
Latavius Murray at Roster’s Edge
The Bills added Murray this offseason, signing the 33-year-old on May 1 in a move to add depth and size to the running game. There were some early questions about whether he would make the team, with Nick Wojton of USA Today’s Bills Wire made initially predicting in May that he would not make the final roster.
But the Bills had an unexpected opening in the backfield when Nyheim Hines suffered a season-ending injury, leaving room for Murray to make the roster instead of the practice squad. The team’s other offseason acquisition, Damien Harris, is expected to take on a bigger role this season.
As Buscaglia suggested, the Bills could lean heavily on Cook as he enters his second season. Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey praised Cook this week, saying he has seen good growth from the running back.
“I think the biggest thing is just obviously the reps that he’s gotten,” Dorsey said, via SI.com. “You know, he just continues to grow. So it’s some of those little detail things, whether it’s pressing the hole, whether it’s maybe a concept or a situation, short-yardage, goal-line, that maybe he wasn’t in the past.”
Nathan Dougherty is a sports reporter covering the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions for Heavy. Previously he wrote for the Rochester Business Journal and served as the assistant editor of athletic trade magazines Coaching Management, Athletic Management and Training & Conditioning. He is based out of Rochester, New York, and loves everything football. More about Nathan Dougherty