Mike Gillislee is among the 24 free agents on the Buffalo Bills’ roster this offseason and he should be one of the team’s top priorities.
For the past two seasons, the Buffalo Bills have had the top rushing attack in the NFL. If the Bills want to keep that stigma, they will have to retain Mike Gillislee and pay him what he deserves — especially with Tyrod Taylor‘s future with the team uncertain to this point.
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It all started when Rex Ryan and Anthony Lynn joined the team in 2015, with LeSean McCoy, Taylor and Karlos Williams leading the way. The team finished the season with 2,432 yards, an average of 152 yards per game and an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
After cutting Karlos Williams prior to the 2016 regular season, the Bills were left with McCoy, Taylor and Mike Gillislee leading the way. Luckily, with Ryan and Lynn still in town, the Bills’ running backs had an even more effective season running the ball. Buffalo finished the 2016 season with a whopping 2,630 yards, 164.4 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. They also saw an increase of 10 touchdowns from the season before.
With both Rex Ryan and Anthony Lynn gone, is it possible to see the Buffalo Bills reign as rushing champs for a third consecutive year?
Well, that will have a lot to do with how the new coaches run the ball. With a defensive minded head coach in Sean McDermott and an offensive coordinator (Rick Dennison) that doesn’t have a long history of calling plays, many would think that running the ball will be a lot tougher.
Not to mention the possibility of not having Tyrod Taylor under center next season, which was a big reason the Bills were able to run the ball so well.
With all of the changes at the coaching level, if the Buffalo Bills want to remain the biggest threat on the ground in this league, they need to start with bringing back those that made it possible. We know LeSean McCoy will do what’s expected next season, but with the futures of Tyrod Taylor and Mike Gillislee currently up in the air, McCoy doesn’t have much help right now.
First off, let’s say Buffalo doesn’t pick up Tyrod Taylor‘s option by March 11th. That move right there would set the team back nearly 600 rushing yards, which is a big chunk of their total. Chances are it doesn’t matter who Buffalo has at QB next season, there’s no way they will match what Tyrod Taylor brought to this running game — even assuming LeSean McCoy has another spectacular season.
With that already putting the team in quite a hole, the possibility of losing Mike Gillislee would hurt even more. Statistically, Gillislee produced just 3 yards less than what Taylor did, finishing the season with 577 yards. They also both had similar amounts of carries. Together, the two equaled close to what McCoy produced. If we lose both Taylor and Gillislee, we would essentially be losing a starting running back — from a production standpoint.
Buffalo can’t have that, considering their running attack is what kept them in the playoff hunt all season long. Sure, we would probably get better passing numbers from a QB that’s not Tyrod Taylor, but the loss in the running game would be too dramatic.
If the Buffalo Bills bring back Gillislee and let Taylor walk, it wouldn’t be as big of a loss. If you think about it, Gillislee would get a majority of Taylor’s carries and would turn out similar production.
Gillislee had 101 carries last season and finished with 577 yards and a 5.7 avg. If he receives just half of the carries that Taylor got last season (which would be about 50) and averaged 5.5 yards per carry (which would be a decrease from last season), Gillislee would finish with 150 carries and 825 yards. Combine that with another 1,250-yard season from McCoy and a lousy 275 yards from an unnamed QB (which is do-able by any QB), the Buffalo Bills would still be among the top rushing teams.
Sorry to throw those numbers at you, but the point is this: If Taylor does walk, the Bills can still be among the top rushing teams in the league if they bring back Gillislee and give him more opportunities. That’s why bringing him back is so important to keeping this team in the playoff hunt.
From a statistical standpoint, losing both Taylor and Gillislee will be a dramatic loss to the run-game. However, just losing Taylor wouldn’t be too much of a loss if handled correctly and part of that starts with bringing back Mike Gillislee.
From a financial standpoint, bringing back Gillislee and letting Taylor walk would do wonders for this team.
In my opinion, best case scenario would be to bring both back, but Buffalo NEEDS to at least bring Gillislee back — more than anything. He will help keep this run-game at the top of the league and take pressure off Buffalo’s quarterback (whoever that may be).