Pass protection important in RB decision

Mike Zimmer would like to see more playing time for Matt Asiata and said pass protection is a big factor in running backs being able to play.

Jerick McKinnon was on the field for three times as many plays at Matt Asiata last week against Detroit, but that doesn’t mean that Asiata is being phased out.

In a conference call with the Buffalo media Wednesday, head coach Mike Zimmer said that he would like to see Asiata see some more playing time Sunday and that last week’s playing time disparity wasn’t an indictment of Asiata’s ability.

Asked by the local media to expand on that comment, Zimmer said he hasn’t lost confidence in Asiata and sees him being in more of a time share with McKinnon.

“I just like Asiata,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s got some physicality. He’s played well this year. He had that one fumble against Green Bay but that was after a 12-yard run. Matt is an extremely dependable guy and I anticipate that when he carries the ball that he’s going to get some yardage and that’s not a knock on McKinnon at all because I think McKinnon still has the explosiveness. I would just like to see us keep using them both.”

One of the keys to who plays and how much they play may well hinge on what kind of pass rush the Bills are able to generate against the much-maligned Vikings offensive line. The Lions registered eight sacks against Teddy Bridgewater last week and, over the last two games, the Vikings have allowed a whopping 14 sacks.

When it comes to determining playing time Sunday, it may not be the rushing ability that plays as much a role as the blocking ability of the Vikings’ top two running backs.

“In today’s NFL, if a running back does not know who to block in pass protection he is not very good because he’s going to get your quarterback killed,” Zimmer said. “I know when I was with (Bill) Parcells he told the team every year at the beginning of camp that he can’t put rookies in the game if they don’t know how to protect or who to protect because they’ll get the quarterback killed.”


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