RB Review

Marshawn Lynch carried Buffalo's mediocre offense on his shoulders last season. For the 'O' to improve in '08, he'll need some help in the running game.


Marshawn Lynch: 280 att. 1,115 yards, 4.0 avg., 7 TD

Fred Jackson: 58 att. 300 yards, 5.2 avg., 0 TD

Dwayne Wright: 29 att. 94 yards, 3.2 avg., 0 TD

Grade: B


Last season, one of the only bright points of the Buffalo Bills porous offense was rookie running back Marshawn Lynch. The Bills selected Lynch as the 12th overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. Coming off of a junior season where he generated massive Heisman hype, Lynch chose to forgo his senior year at California and eclipsed all rookie expectations with an astoundingly productive first year for the Bills. Lynch compiled the second-best rushing season of any rookie, second only to the otherworldly numbers of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Lynch totaled 1,115 yards in 13 games of action for Buffalo, after missing three games with an ankle injury he suffered against Miami.

Lynch was a welcome breath of fresh air in Buffalo succeeding the likes of the often-troubled Travis Henry and seemingly always-unhappy Willis McGahee. At 5-11 and 215 lb., Lynch is a downfield runner with deceiving speed. He ran one of the top 10 times in the 40-yard dash at the 2007 NFL combine, at 4.46 seconds. A combination of power and speed through the hole allowed Lynch to carry the hefty burden of 280 carries last season, as he reached the end zone seven times and only fumbling the ball twice. His ability to protect the ball is vital to a team that relies on its running game to stabilize the inconsistent air attack. Lynch also had 18 receptions for 184 yards in 2007 and should be looked to more as a check-down receiver next season.

Backup running back Fred Jackson out of Coe College was one of the biggest surprises in ‘07. Jackson played in eight games and received his first NFL start against the Washington Redskins on Dec. 2. His impact was immediate. Jackson had 16 carries for 82 yards in an emotional 17-16 Buffalo victory. Jackson averaged an impressive 5.2 yards per carry last season as well as putting on an inspired 115-yard outing against Miami, as Lynch added 107 yards. The 38-17 win over Miami marked the first time since 1996 that two Bills running backs had at least 100 yards. Despite a good effort to fill the void during Lynch's three-game absence, neither Jackson nor any other Buffalo running back besides Lynch reached the end zone on the ground last season. In fact, the only other rushing touchdown last season was recorded by wide receiver Roscoe Parish in Week 12 against Jacksonville.

The final pillar of a very young Bills rushing attack was another rookie, Dwayne Wright. Wright played in 15 games for the Bills last season and ran the ball sparingly. In 29 carries, Wright managed 94 yards with an unimpressive 3.2 yards per carry average. Next season the Bills will look for more production from their secondary backs to help compliment the consistency of Lynch.

Looking Ahead

For the 2008 season, the Bills will look to their running game to carry the offense again. Lynch's strong production behind a refurbished offensive line will be imperative to stabilizing an offense with inconsistency at the quarterback position. Lynch, however, carried the ball 280 times last season. That's a burden for any back, let alone a rookie. This season the Bills must integrate Wright and Jackson more into the rushing attack to avert the fatigue and injury that many 300-carry backs such as Larry Johnson have experienced.

The Bills may also look to find a viable option to compliment Lynch with the emergence of the successful two-back systems seen in New England, New York and New Orleans. Distributing some of the carries to other backs will be important to averting burning out the promise of Lynch early on in his career. The Bills will also need to try to utilize their running backs more in the air attack through screens and check-downs to combat spotty pass protection and keep opposing defenses honest on blitzes. As a receiver, Lynch could also jumpstart the progress of quarterback Trent Edwards.

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