Bills Want to Run the Football Efficiently, Not Necessarily More

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll suggests the his squad can still thrive with unbalanced attack.
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One of the priorities Bills coach Sean McDermott set for this offseason in the wake of their loss to Kansas City in January's AFC Championship Game was to improve the running game.

To that end, they made sure no starting offensive lineman departed in free agency, added veteran free agent Matt Breida to the running back room and used three of their eight draft picks on offensive linemen.

One thing they didn't do was add the "home-run hitter" general manager Brandon Beane said they lacked at running back.

Clemson's Travis Etienne had been linked to the Bills all the way up until he was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 25th overall pick in the NFL Draft. That was five spots before the Bills were due to make their first pick at No. 30.

Would they have taken Etienne? Possibly.

But they couldn't. Then, when they didn't see any other running backs worth drafting based on where they stood the rest of the way, they didn't force the issue.

So here we are.

Have they improved?

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll believes they will be this year.

Will they feature a more balanced attack than they had in 2020?

Not unless they feel they have to run the ball more based on what their opponents present from week to week.

"There's a lot of different ways to win a game," Daboll said during his news conference at OTAs. "You'd like to be first in the league in pass, first in the league in run, first in the league in total offense, first in the league in points. But that rarely happens. You know, the team [Tampa Bay] that won the Super Bowl was second in the league in pass and 28th in rush.

"To me, stats, really don't matter. What matters is being effective at the things you're asked to do when we need to do them. If that's to run the ball, it's to run the ball. If it's to pass it, it's to pass it. You know, 50-50, I mean those days -- really everyone talks about balances. Balanced are good if you win. It's not very good if you lose. So our philosophy is always going to be, do what we need to do to try to win a football game. If that means throw it 30 times in a row, it's throw it 30 times in a row. If means run it 30 times, it means run it. We just try to go out there and do the best we can with the things that we think we need to do for that week."

Interestingly, left tackle Dion Dawkins agrees, even though he admitted it's harder for the offensive line to change gears and block in the run game when the team throws so much.

"Reps help," he said, "but what can we do, man? Like, we have a quarterback that can throw, we have superstars that can catch. So I would want the ball in whose hands? And I would want the guy behind us doing what? Throwing it.

"So whatever we have to do to keep Josh protected, that's what it is. Whether it's running or passing, we don't care."

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro.