Bills Training Camp Battle: 5 RBs, 4 Spots?

Who is the odd man out at running back for the Buffalo Bills? Here's a look at their five talented backs as well as reasons why each back will or won't make the 2015 opening day roster.

Ninety Buffalo Bills will begin fighting for 53 roster spots at training camp. Unfortunately, the top 53 players may not make Buffalo’s roster as the team will value certain positions more than others. At running back, Buffalo has five talented options, but it’s highly unlikely that the team carries all five players. Realistically, one man will not be on Buffalo’s roster come Week 1. Here’s a look at Buffalo’s five running backs and reasons why they will and won’t make the roster in 2015.

LeSean McCoy

Why he’ll make the roster: Let’s not waste too much time here. Buffalo traded for McCoy in the offseason and rewarded him with a five-year, $40 million contract extension. The Bills want to give McCoy 300-plus carries this season.  

Why he won’t make the roster: A training camp or preseason injury is the only thing that could stop McCoy from making the team’s 53-man roster.

Fred Jackson

Why he’ll make the roster: At one point this offseason, there was talk of Jackson being released. Supposedly, ownership stepped in and put the kibosh on the discussion. That should lead you to believe that Jackson’s spot is safe. Jackson is slowing down at 34 years old, but he still led the team in rushing yards (521) and receptions (66) last season. He may also be the team’s best blocking option in terms of picking up blitzes.

Why he won’t make the roster: Despite leading the team in rushing yards, Jackson’s 3.7 YPC average was the lowest of his career. In the last four seasons, Jackson has only appeared in all 16 games once. Father time could catch up to Jackson in training camp and force Buffalo to release one of their fan favorites.

Anthony Dixon

Why he’ll make the roster: Dixon was given over 100 carries for the first time in his NFL career last season, and his 105 carries resulted in 432 yards and two touchdowns. Dixon’s 4.1 YPC average was the highest on the team and he tied Jackson for rushing touchdowns (2) and C.J. Spiller for most 20+ yard runs (3). Dixon may also have an edge at making the roster due to his knowledge of Greg Roman’s offense from his time with the 49ers. Last, Dixon was a strong contributor on special teams last season. He blocked two punts and played well on kick and punt coverage.

Why he won’t make the roster: Although Dixon has previous experience playing under Greg Roman, he wasn’t given much of an opportunity during their three seasons together (2011-2013). In his three seasons with Roman, Dixon only had 78 carries. Dixon was one of Buffalo’s best special teams players last season, but rookie Karlos Williams is expected to contribute on special teams this season as well.

Karlos Williams

Why he’ll make the roster: Buffalo kept their pre-draft visitor list pretty secretive in 2015, but Williams was the only running back visit that came to light. The team apparently liked Williams’ skill-set and drafted him in the fifth round. Williams can contribute on special teams as a rookie and possibly pick up carries later in the season. The website numberfire.com listed Williams as the most productive running back in the 2015 class in terms of career success in the red zone.

Why he won’t make the roster: Fifth round picks aren’t locks to make a team’s roster. If Williams struggles the most among all the backs at training camp, his spot could be in danger.

Bryce Brown

Why he’ll make the roster: Brown is a personal favorite of general manager Doug Whaley. When the team traded for Brown, Whaley noted that he had tried trading for Brown before with no success. If the GM has any say in the team’s final roster, Brown has a legitimate chance of making the team. Last season, Brown only received 36 carries. His 3.5 YPC average wasn’t impressive, but he did show the ability to contribute as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Brown finished the year with 16 receptions for 176 yards. Whaley has asked the new coaching staff to give Brown a clean slate, so he has a chance to make this year’s squad.

Why he won’t make the roster: Rex Ryan’s initial impression of Brown wasn’t positive. At an hour-long breakfast with NFL reporters, Ryan said the following on Brown:

"With us, when we made the LeSean McCoy trade, with Fred Jackson and Boobie Dixon and, uh, the fast dude. Brown is it?" Ryan said, smiling. "I'm not gonna learn his name until he holds on to the football. And if he does, he'll have a chance to play. But until we feel comfortable with it, he won't."

Ryan wasn’t completely serious with his statement, but it also wasn’t a ringing endorsement for Brown. The 24 year old back only had one fumble last season, although it was a costly fumble. Brown was about to score a touchdown against the Chiefs when he was stripped of the ball. Brown’s fumbling issues are a bit overblown due to fumbling the ball four times as a rookie in 2012. To make Buffalo’s roster, Brown is going to have to prove his worth at training camp.

Pre-Training Camp Prediction:

Brown gets released or traded barring an injury to another back at training camp.


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