Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Bills plan bigger role for rookie after disastrous debut: Insiders

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James Cook may not have too much time to reflect on his difficult start with the Buffalo Bills.

The rookie running back came with high expectations after the Bills clinched him with a second-round pick and praised him for his skill, but he ended up playing just three snaps in the season opener after fumbling away his first NFL carry. The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia believes Cook won’t be left on the bench and could play a big part, starting with the continuation of the opening win.

As Buscaglia wrote, Cook’s only NFL carry went as bad as can be. He missed a chance to slice outward for a big win, instead turning back into fullback and losing a fumble when hit. The rookie’s subsequent bench press could prompt questions about whether they’d stick with the three-man backfield of Cook, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, but Buscaglia believes the Bills will still need Cook in the lineup against the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football .

“The Bills would benefit greatly from expanding the Titans’ defense in this game, and Cook can help with that,” he wrote. “The Bills could make some significant gains by getting the Titans’ linebackers to move from side to side rather than trying to stop the run downhill.”

To fully extend the Titans’ defense, the Bills Cooks need unique skills, Buscaglia added.

“In Week 1 the Bills used a lot of outside runs to get their backs in clear air and using Cook’s speed in this way is something the other two defenders don’t possess,” he wrote. “There was so much potential in that one rush attempt that the Bills should embrace it rather than hide from it, while also giving Cook a chance as a pass catcher.”

Cook’s fumbling didn’t cost the Bills all that much in their season-opening win over the Rams. While the turnover helped Los Angeles close a 10-point deficit and go into a tie at halftime, the Bills pulled away in the second half en route to a 21-point win.

After the game, Bills head coach Sean McDermott said he felt it was important for Cook to get back in the game after the fumble, despite not having another carry or pass goal by the end.

“We’re trying to allow the player to reset and then come back out,” McDermott said of the Buffalo News. “I thought (running backs) coach (Kelly) Skipper did a good job allowing that time. Then James was back out there for a few…plays, I think, the rest of the game. I think that’s better than a player not having to go back out there and then sleep on it and not have a chance to somehow fix the mistake, if you will. I think that’s something he will learn from and needs to learn from. This allows us to do a better job overall, including as a team.”

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