Everyone agrees that the Bills need to improve in the running game. They're averaging 3.6 yards a carry as a team, which ranks 28th in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch is averaging just 3.5 a pop and hasn't had a 100-yard rushing day this season. The Bills aren't likely to win big games in the cold weather -- and in the playoffs -- if they can't run the ball more efficiently and create more favorable down and distance situations for Trent Edwards.
But it's not as if the running backs haven't been producing. Turk Schonert, the offensive coordinator, seemed a bit touchy when I brought up the production of the Bills' running backs in the passing game. Lynch (19 receptions) and Fred Jackson (17) are currently fifth and sixth in the AFC in catches by running backs. When I mentioned that, Schonert said "Really?" I'm not sure he was aware of the actual stat, but he had a sarcastic tone, as if to say, "Nice for someone to notice."
Lynch and Jackson have combined for 822 yards from scrimmage through six games. At that pace, they would gain a shade under 2,200 yards over a full season. Only two AFC halfback tandems have combined for more yardage this year. Tennessee's combo of LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson have teamed for 943 yards from scrimmage. San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles have 888.
Schonert said he would get the backs more involved in the passing game this season. He's been true to his word. In fact, there are times when it seems the Bills are too willing to dump the ball off to the running backs. They have to throw the ball more consistently down the field to back defenses off the line and open up more room for Lynch and Jackson to do what they do best -- run the ball.