When Bills head coach Dick Jauron first expressed an interest in adding a third running back he said it was partly in the interest of lightening the load carried by Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. Though Jauron liked the way both backs were utilized in Buffalo's offense last season, it was clear he wanted another back that was dependable.
"We'd like to take a little bit of pressure off of them," said Jauron of Lynch and Jackson. "We wanted to find a guy with a little more experience in that third spot."
That player proved to be Dominic Rhodes, who has had great success at the NFL level and offers versatility. Some outside observers see Rhodes' presence as a detractor for Lynch, knowing in some way it will take opportunities away from Buffalo's feature back.
On the other hand, it's also likely to keep Lynch a lot fresher come the end of the season when the countless number of hits really begin to take their toll, but the running game is needed all the more.
Why it's necessaryMake no mistake, Marshawn Lynch is as tough as they come, but a severe high ankle sprain in 2007 and a badly bruised shoulder in 2008 cost the Bills' feature back to miss four and a half games over his first two years. The more hits a back takes, the more likely they are to suffer an injury. It's part of the game and the law of averages.
In Lynch's case a lot of times the yards he's had to fight for can make his 297 touches last year, for example, feel more like 400. He's not exactly a back that shies away from contact.
Fully aware of Lynch's physically demanding running style, the staff wants to effectively manage his carries and plan on doing so by making use of Jackson and Rhodes. To what degree remains to be seen.
No huddleIn addition Buffalo's plan to run an up tempo offense a good portion of the time this season will also reduce the down time in between snaps. That will mean a busy tailback may need an extra blow or two during the course of a game, especially one that's carrying more muscle this season.
"I feel pretty much the same," said Lynch. "I bulked up to about 230 and put some mass on. We'll see how that's going to work. I haven't lost a step."
The unexpectedWhat is likely to help keep Lynch fresh down the stretch this season more than anything else is the fact that he'll be playing three fewer games this season due to his league suspension.
That combined with a stronger supporting cast should make for a spry Lynch come late December and early January when relying on the running game becomes even more important.
Good second half numbersMost interesting however, is the fact that Lynch's yards per carry average is actually better in the second half of the season than the first half. Over his first two seasons Lynch has averaged 3.64 yards per carry in September and October (271-987 yds), and 4.5 yards per carry in November and December (259-1,164 yds).
With numbers like that and fresher legs late in the year Lynch could really do some damage on opposing defenses.
And the running back wisely notes that with three capable backs Jackson and Rhodes will be fresher as well come December when a playoff push could be in full swing.
"I'm seeing big things for us, with the additions that we have now, the draft picks and Terrell Owens," said Lynch. "With (three) happy running backs there's going to be trouble."