Bills Plan Bigger Role for Rookie After Disastrous Debut: Insider

James Cook

Getty James Cook carries the ball in a Buffalo Bills game.

James Cook may not have too much time to dwell on his difficult start with the Buffalo Bills.

The rookie running back came with high expectations after the Bills took him with a second-round pick and offered some big praise for his skill set, but he ended up playing only three snaps in the season opener after fumbling away his first NFL carry. The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia believes Cook won’t remain stashed away on the bench, and could take on a big role starting with the follow-up to their opening win.

Bills Backfield Needs Cook

As Buscaglia wrote, Cook’s only NFL carry went about as badly as possible. He missed the chance to cut to the outside for a big gain, instead turning back into defenders and losing a fumble as he was hit. The rookie’s subsequent benching could lead to questions about whether they would stick with the three-headed backfield of Cook, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, but Buscaglia believes the Bills will still need Cook in the lineup against the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.

“The Bills would benefit greatly by spreading the Titans defense out in this game, and Cook can help with that,” he wrote. “The Bills could find some significant gains by getting the Titans’ linebackers moving side to side rather than trying to stop the run downhill.”

In order to fully stretch out the Titans defense, the Bills will need Cook’s unique skill set, Buscaglia added.

“In Week 1, the Bills used a lot of outside rushes to get their backs into some clear air, and utilizing Cook’s speed in that change-of-pace way is something the other two backs do not possess,” he wrote. “That one rush attempt had so much potential that the Bills should lean into it rather than hide from it, while also giving Cook a chance as a pass-catcher as well.”

Bills Want Cook Back on the Field

Cook’s fumble didn’t end up costing the Bills too much in their season-opening win over the Rams. While the turnover did help in allowing Los Angeles to erase a 10-point deficit and go into halftime tied, the Bills pulled away in the second half en route to a 21-point victory.

After the game, Bills head coach Sean McDermott said he thought it was important for Cook to get back into the game after the fumble, though he didn’t end up with another carry or pass target.

“We try and allow the player to reset and then get back out there,” McDermott said, via the Buffalo News. “I thought (running backs) coach (Kelly) Skipper did a good job with allowing that time to take place. Then James was back out there for a couple … plays, I think, through the rest of the game. So I think that’s better than a player having to not go back out there and then sleep on it and not having a chance to kind of make up for the mistake, if you will. I think that’s something he’ll learn from and he needs to learn from. We can do a better job with it overall, as a team, as well.”

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