Frank Gore's tank may be fuller than LeSean McCoy's

This year's running back battle could turn out like last year's quarterback battle

Joe DiBiase
August 08, 2019 - 12:18 am

Photo: Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

I already believed that the Buffalo Bills saying they think LeSean McCoy is still going to be a big part of the offense in 2019 was out-weighed by the actions of signing Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon, and drafting Devin Singletary.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott sat in with John Murphy and Steve Tasker on One Bills Live on Wednesday, where he announced that Gore would start at running back in the first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. McDermott added that McCoy would not play against Indianapolis, but would get the start next week in Carolina against the Panthers. 

We'll see how much Gore and McCoy end up playing in the preseason. If it's anything significant, that means there's a real competition going on between the two.

McDermott tried to sell that the team is going with Gore first because they know McCoy and are still getting to know Gore.

I'm not buying that for a second.

There is literally not another running back in the National Football League with more tape than Gore. If you don't know what he is as a player by now, you never will.

Compare this year's running back competition to last year's quarterback competition and you'll find similarities that could lead the Bills to a similar result. 

Last season, Nathan Peterman started the first preseason game. We were told not to make much of it, yet, despite comparable production to his counterparts A.J. McCarron and Josh Allen, he ended up the starter for Week 1 of the regular season. Yes, McCarron had a tough go of it against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he bounced back in a big way against the Chicago Bears. 

McCarron would've been an asset for the Bills. Another veteran player that could insulate Josh Allen from being rushed to action if ill-prepared. Yet, the Bills decided they didn't need the cushion at the position. The very same could happen this year at running back. 

Like Peterman had a bit of a head start last year going into the preseason, Gore starting the first game of the preseason could mean he has a bit of a head start to lead a Bills running back committee. It would make sense if that were the case.

Behind an abysmal Miami Dolphins offensive line last season, Gore averaged a very good 4.6 yards per-carry. That's the same rate as  New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, and former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt.

Pro Football Focus analyst Mike Renner graded Miami as the 31st-ranked offensive line in football last season. He had the Bills five spots higher at 26th. There should be more talk about the 36-year-old back, who was productive in Miami while having gas left in the tank.

If this year's running back battle is the same as last year's quarterback battle, one of the veterans will be traded. The Bills decided that they didn't need McCarron enough to pass on a fifth round pick last season. They should arrive at a similar conclusion this year with McCoy or Gore. That is, if Singletary proves capable of a significant role to start the year.

By most accounts at training camp, Singletary is earning the hype he's getting. He would be Allen in this equation. The Bills clearly liked what they saw in Allen enough to decide they didn't need McCarron. Without that, McCarron doesn't get traded. Singletary will have to continue to impress for the Bills to trade one of the veteran backs. Yeldon likely won't have any value around the league.

If it came down to keeping McCoy or Gore, I'd pick Gore. There's reason to believe he's got more left in the tank than McCoy, and McCoy had trade interest going back to last trade deadline. He admitted on Tuesday that two teams had shown interest. 

Both McCoy and Gore will be Hall of Famers, and there's reason to believe both can defy age to be productive this season. The Bills just don't need both to do it here.

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