The Bills rushing attack will look a bit different in 2023. Devin Singletary is gone, having left via free agency to the Texans. The front office added former Patriots starter Damien Harris to the mix, although he profiles as more of an RB2 since the organization is ready to go all-in on 2022 second-round pick James Cook.
Cook and Harris appear to be locked in atop the depth chart, leading to an apparent competition between Nyheim Hines and Latavius Murray for the RB3 spot. As Ryan O’Halloran of the Buffalo News noted today, the two veterans may actually be fighting for a roster spot, not just a spot on the depth chart. The Bills intend to give a roster spot to fullback Reggie Gilliam, perhaps leaving only one space for Hines or Murray
Hines would be the more natural fit if the organization is looking for a fill-in for Singletary. The former Bills RB averaged 39 receptions per season over his final three seasons in Buffalo. Harris had 40 total receptions during his four seasons in New England, and the former third-round pick seems primed to be a true backup. Cook provides some pass-catching prowess (21 catches as a rookie), but it seems unlikely that the second-year pro will be a true three-down back.
Hines could provide Josh Allen with another worthy target out of the backfield on third downs. The former Colts fourth-round pick averaged more than 56 catches per season though his first three years in the NFL, and while he saw a reduced role in 2021 and 2022, he still hauled in 70 total catches between the two campaigns.
While Hines has shown an ability to catch the ball, his roster spot could ultimately come down to special teams. The 26-year-old served as the Bills’ primary returner after joining the organization last season, returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns. As O’Halloran notes, new wideout Deonte Harty previously was an All-Pro punt returner, and his spot on the roster could make Hines expendable.
Murray would be the odd man out if Hines ultimately makes the team, but the veteran has a good case for making the roster. The 33-year-old would naturally bring some experience to a relatively young running back corps, and he’s also shown to be a worthy replacement starter in a pinch (he’s started at least three games in each of his nine NFL seasons). While Hines is the superior pass-catcher, Murray can also contribute in the passing game, with the veteran hauling in 35 catches just last season.
As O’Halloran writes, Murray is still a valuable player, with the RB most recently collecting close to 900 yards from scrimmage in 13 games with the Broncos and Saints in 2022. If Murray does end up missing the cut in Buffalo, O’Halloran believes the Bills front office should be able to get something for him via trade.
Hines and Murray will likely get an extended look during the preseason, but it seems likely that one of the two will be looking for a new job by the end of the preseason.