Bills Rumors: Explosive Rookie Could Play Huge Role for Josh Allen

James Cook

Getty James Cook speaks to reporters at the NFL Draft combine.

The key to unlocking the Buffalo Bills‘ rushing game — and taking pressure off Josh Allen — could come in the form of rookie James Cook, an analyst suggests.

The Bills selected the Georgia running back in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, making a heavy investment into a running game that has sputtered at times. Miles Ruder of Pro Football Focus believes that the 22-year-old Cook could add an important tool to the Bills’ offense and help Allen focus on one of his few weaknesses.

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Cook’s Important Role

As Ruder noted, Cook was one of the draft’s top-rated running backs when it comes to pass-catching. His PFF receiving grade was 83.4, putting him fourth of the draft’s 33 running backs. Cook was incredibly efficient as a receiver, with his quarterbacks amassing a 134.3 passer rating when targeting him.

After a deal for free-agent running back J.D. McKissick fell apart for the Bills, Cook’s selection gave them an explosive target out of the backfield they’ve been lacking for years, Ruder added. The PFF analyst noted that Cook could be a key asset for Allen, who had the lowest checkdown rate over his first two years in the NFL and ranked in the bottom five for the last two seasons.

“Buffalo could use someone to take the pressure off Allen’s arm, as their pass-catchers combined to rank dead last in yards after the catch per reception (4.3) in 2021,” Ruder wrote. “The Bills’ franchise quarterback recorded the sixth-highest average depth of target (9.0) this past season while also attempting the second-most passes beyond 10 yards (223). It’s almost been a hindrance at times because of his reluctance to make underneath throws.”

Crowded Backfield for the Bills

Before Cook’s addition, the Bills had largely split carries between running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, but the team could have some tough decisions to make for the upcoming season. The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia believes that the Bills could entertain the idea of trading Moss, whose role in the offense would be less defined now that Cook has joined the mix.

After a rookie season where he rushed for 481 yards with four touchdowns and a 4.3-yard-per-carry average, Moss saw a dropoff his second year as he was coming off a major ankle injury. He ran for just 345 yards and a 3.6-yard-per-carry average in 2021, and Buscaglia believes it could have Moss’s role in jeopardy.

“Running back was an interesting group for a couple of reasons,” he wrote. “For one, the Bills have a decision to make on Moss — namely whether they see more value in keeping him on the roster as the third back versus trying to move him in a trade. Moss could come back determined after a trying offseason, as Singletary did last year. Moss still has two years left on a cost-controlled rookie deal, so the Bills would like it to work with Moss.”

But Buscaglia has also suggested that Moss could add a new wrinkle to his game by taking snaps on special teams, a role that has already given job security to Taiwan Jones, a running back in name only who almost exclusively plays on special teams.

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