Anticipation is running high as the Buffalo Bills take on the Los Angeles Rams for the NFL’s season opener on Thursday, September 8, as this game sets the stage for what fans and analysts can expect from the reigning Super Champions and from the team most favored to win the title this year.
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Bills’ offense, according to The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia, is how the team will choose to deploy running back James Cook, the team’s second-round pick from the 2022 NFL Draft. As it stands, the rookie sits third on the depth chart behind Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, but that could be on purpose.
“The Bills didn’t show their hand with Cook, only mixing him in with some carries throughout the preseason. Even with those chances, Cook looked unmistakably talented, with a smooth, gliding running style. The Bills likely intentionally kept his pass-catching prowess from their offensive game plan during exhibition games. But you can also tell a bit of the excitement from the locker room about what Cook can do.”
Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was cagey when asked about Cook’s role. “To be honest, that’s going to be something that just unfolds naturally over the course of a game,” Dorsey said on September 5. “Obviously, James is a very talented player and we drafted him for a reason.”
While both Singletary and Moss will likely play significant roles in the season opener, Cook gives Buffalo’s offense another chess piece to deploy.
According to Buscaglia, “Cook is the type of running back the Bills have never had since quarterback Josh Allen entered the lineup in 2018. And it makes you wonder if the Bills intentionally played coy about Cook’s role in his rookie season. Given the pass-first environment often dictating Bills’ games, it wouldn’t at all be a surprise if the Bills have a bigger-than-expected role out of the gate for the first-year back. It would also make sense, given some of the moves to feature some outside zone running and potentially to utilize Cook out wide in a mismatch against linebackers and safeties.”
Cook Quickly Earned Respect from the Team’s Veteran RBs
While Buffalo has kept the 22-year-old Georgia alum’s talent under wraps, his teammates shed light on his future superstar power.
“He’s a mystical creature,” practice squad running back Duke Johnson told The Athletic of Cook’s personality and playing style.” Veteran running back and team captain Taiwan Jones added, “He’s a wide receiver at running back.”
When Buscaglia asked Johnson about the Bills’ plan for Cook, might be for Cook, and if they purposely hid the rookie during the preseason, Johnson played coy.
“You have no idea. You have no idea,” Johnson said with a smile. “That’s a good thing. Kind of an element of surprise. Get him out there, move him around, have fun, let him play.”
Cook Is the Little Brother of Vikings 3-Time Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook
Being thrust into the media spotlight can be a tough transition, but if Cook has any problems, he can always call on his older brother, Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, for advice.
While the two brothers are incredibly close, comparisons between the rookie and the three-time Pro Bowler are inevitable, especially with the Bills hosting the Vikings in Week 10 of the 2022 NFL season.
Cook spoke about the possibility of facing his brother while attending the 2022 NFL Combine back in March.
“We going to get after it,” he said, per Vikings.com. “If I’m on the other side, I know he’s going to try to beat me, too, by running all over [my team], so I’m going to try to do the same.”