The Buffalo Bills could have a three-headed monster at running back this upcoming season, which may mean bad news for veteran Duke Johnson.
The Bills signed the former Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins running back this offseason to bring some competition to the running back room, especially after second-year back Zack Moss struggled at times in 2021. But Moss has had a resurgence in training camp and rookie James Cook appears in line for a significant role, which one insider believes could block Johnson’s chances of making the final roster.
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Johnson on Outside of Roster Bubble
The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia gave an early projection of Buffalo’s final 53-man roster, predicting that Johnson will be cut along with undrafted rookie free agent running back Raheem Blacksheer.
Buscaglia noted that the roster makeup was going to depend on what the Bills planned to do with Moss, who started slowly in 2021 after having broken his ankle in the playoffs the previous season. But Moss has looked strong in training camp, especially in short-yardage situations, and gotten a significant amount of reps with the first-team offense.
“The only question here was whether the Bills would show any signs of disinterest in Moss,” Buscaglia wrote. “The exact opposite has happened as Moss has continuously worked with the Allen group daily in practice. There is a legitimate chance this backfield has three players, Moss, Singletary and Cook, all getting a role on game days.”
Moss flashed quite a bit of potential in his rookie season, rushing for 481 yards with four touchdowns and a 4.3-yard-per-carry average. He struggled to follow up that strong campaign, rushing for just 345 yards with a 3.6-yard-per-carry average last season.
As The Athletic’s Buscaglia noted, Moss has now played his way back into the conversation at training camp.
“The general expectation surrounding the Bills’ backfield is that it will be the Devin Singletary and James Cook show, with Zack Moss being a game-day inactive,” he wrote on July 26. “In practices like these, actions speak loudest, and Moss receiving ample time working with Allen through the first two practices shows he isn’t as far behind as some might think.”
Johnson Could Have Value Beyond Playing Field
Johnson may have a few aspects working in his favor. At age 28 he is the elder statesman of the Bills’ running back room, and has taken a hands-on role in helping Cook adjust to the NFL. Though Johnson acknowledged that he’s fighting with Cook for a roster spot, he still wanted to help out in any way he could, which could give him some added value when it’s time to make the final roster.
“You look at it as competition, but we also look at it – the older guys – as being able to mentor,” Johnson told the Buffalo News. “We get it. We know it’s a numbers game. We all know that, but it doesn’t stop us from helping each other out, because at the end of the day, we want this team to be successful, because this team gave all of us an opportunity to play football and we want to make sure that whoever they do choose is the right guy.”