Bills Bring Veteran RB to Active Roster in Surprise Move

Duke Johnson

Getty Duke Johnson runs the ball in a Buffalo Bills preseason game.

A little more than a week after swinging a trade for help in the running game, the Buffalo Bills are bringing in more reinforcement.

The Bills announced on November 12 that veteran running back Duke Johnson was elevated from the practice squad for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. The move came as a surprise to some insiders, as the Bills had just made a trade-deadline deal to bring in Nyheim Hines. The Bills are also facing uncertainty after an injury to quarterback Josh Allen, which could lead to a more run-heavy attack against a 7-1 Vikings team.

Johnson Moves to Bills Active Roster

Johnson was a standout in the preseason for the Bills, making an impact both in the running game and on special teams where he returned kicks and also served on coverage teams. Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 speculated on Saturday that his elevation to the active roster could mean a Bills rookie heads to the bench for the week.

“The Bills ARE elevating CB Xavier Rhodes and RB Duke Johnson for the game against the Vikings,” Capaccio tweeted. “Rhodes elevation may mean that Tre White doesn’t play again. Duke Johnson? Wonder if that means James Cook is inactive. A lot to be determined.”

Ryan Talbot of also speculated that Johnson’s elevation could free up Hines to play a bigger role in the passing game, which was his forte with the Indianapolis Colts. Since he entered the league in 2018, Hines has the fifth-most receiving yards among running backs (1,725).

“Being elevated does not mean that Duke Johnson will play, but it could be depth behind Devin Singletary and James Cook,” Talbot tweeted. “Before anyone asks, I could see Buffalo using Nyheim Hines in the slot. Gives him more opportunities to get involved and use his speed.”

This could be the first chance for the 29-year-old Johnson to make an impact with the Bills. He rushed for 330 yards with three touchdowns last season with the Miami Dolphins, averaging 4.6 yards per rushing attempt.

Injury to Allen Leaves Question Marks for Bills

The Bills went into Sunday’s game against the Vikings with a cloud of uncertainty on offense. Allen suffered an elbow injury in the final drive of the November 6 loss to the New York Jets and was in danger of missing the game as he was held out of practice during the week.

The Bills gave a strong signal this weekend that Allen could play, opting not to elevate practice squad quarterback Matt Barkley to the active roster by the Saturday deadline. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, the Bills believe that Allen is not at risk of further injury if he were to play.

“Bills officials, however, have been tight-lipped all week and have declined to reveal who is starting and want to keep it secret until after Sunday’s NFL actives/inactives list is released at 11:30 a.m. ET,” Schefter reported. “Bills officials spent intensive time this past week leaning on and listening to their doctors and other arm specialists, and the team was reassured that Allen is not at any added risk to make the injury worse if he plays Sunday against the Vikings, sources said.”

Johnson’s elevation from the practice squad could indicate that the Bills are looking to reinforce the running game to lighten the load on Allen.

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