This season, Buffalo seemed poised to unleash two hard-nosed, dependable running backs to help carry the load on offense. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson were ready to have their names included in the discussion among the best running back duos in football. Unfortunately, this season, due to a number of factors (quarterback play, offensive line are the 2 biggest factors to come to mind), the Bills rushing attack has yet to make any noise.
With 10 games in the books, Buffalo owns the NFL’s 21st ranked rushing attack. The Bills are averaging 102.2 yards per game on the ground, and considering the state the offensive line is in, I’ll admit I’m surprised it’s that high. Injuries, rookies and inconsistent play have all been major factors behind the Bills’ running problems.
Fred Jackson began the season as the starter thanks to Marshawn Lynch’s three-game suspension. Jackson took full advantage of starting, racking up 291 yards in Lynch’s three game absence. But since “Beast Mode” returned in Week 4 against Miami, Jackson hasn’t performed well splitting carries with Lynch. In the seven games he and Lynch have split carries, Jackson has just 237 yards on 68 carries, averaging 33.8 ypg. Since rushing for 71 yards in Week 3 against New Orleans, Jackson has failed to rush for more than 52 yards in any game. Jackson is still looking for this first rushing touchdown this season; his only score was a receiving touchdown in Week 1’s loss against New England.
Lynch’s year began on the sidelines serving a three game suspension, but since his return to the Bills in Week 4 he’s struggled to make an impact. Lynch has carried the ball 87 times (19 more than Jackson in the seven games since his return) for 272 yards, averaging 38.8 ypg. He’s averaging only 3.1 ypc and has yet to rush for more than 69 yards in a game this season.
Certainly the yards have been difficult to come by, but that’s nothing compared to the Bills’ deficiencies getting into the end zone. The Bills have only two rushing touchdowns on the season, one by Lynch and the other by wide receiver Terrell Owens. So to make this worse, technically the Bills have only one rushing touchdown by a running back. Only Cleveland (two) and Kansas City (one) have the same or fewer rushing touchdowns than Buffalo.
There are no shortages of reasons why the Bills have been problematic running the football.
You can start with the offensive line, a line that’s littered with rookies and journeyman. And I might add an offensive line that no longer has their best offensive lineman, Jason Peters. The Bills have 40 rushing 1st downs, which is an AFC low. However, the Bills rank very high in two categories you’d rather not: penalties and penalty yardage. Buffalo leads the AFC with 75 penalties; only Dallas (77) and Green Bay (80) have more penalties in the NFL.
The Bills rank 2nd in the AFC in penalty yardage with 566. Buffalo has also failed to establish any kind of rhythm between Jackson and Lynch and through 10 games, the Bills haven’t figured out a successful rotation that works. Since Lynch’s return, there has been just two games in which both backs had 10 or more carries. In Week 5 against the Browns, Jackson had 13 carries and Lynch had 17, and in Week 6 against the Jets, Jackson had 15 carries while Lynch had 19.
The Bills hope to try and jumpstart their running game this week when they face Miami. The Dolphins won the previous meeting in Week 4, 38-10. In the blowout loss, Jackson and Lynch combined for 46 yards on 17 carries.