The season-ending injury suffered by Nyheim Hines last month left the Bills shorthanded in the backfield. His absence has led to increased clarity with respect to who should make the team’s 53-man roster, though, along with the pecking order at the position.
James Cook was already in line to handle starting duties with Devin Singletary having departed in free agency, but Hines’ ACL tear should leave further pass-catching opportunities available this season. Cook, 23, is well-positioned to build on his production as a rookie this year. He sits comfortably atop the depth chart heading into the campaign, as noted by Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic (subscription required).
Cook posted 507 rushing yards on an impressive average of 5.7 per carry last season. Much of that efficiency owes to his limited workload (89 carries), however. The former second-rounder added 180 yards and one of his three total touchdowns in the passing game, showcasing his abilities on the ground and through the air. With veterans Damien Harris and Latavius Murray (the latter of whom was on the roster bubble before the Hines injury) in place as complimentary options, Cook should see a sharp uptick from his 25% snap share as a rookie.
With Hines having suffered his injury in a jet ski accident, the Bills placed him on the NFI list. That opens the door to a conflict over the matter of compensation, something Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports is underway. Hines’ adjusted contract includes a $1MM signing bonus, $600K of which has already been paid. The Bills are considering withholding the remaining $400K, and paying Hines the equivalent of a practice squad players’ maximum earnings for a season. A formal grievance is an option depending on how the ex-Colt responds to Buffalo’s handling of his case.
Meanwhile, Hines recently underwent surgery on his injured knee (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero). That began the recovery process ahead of next season, something which will be the focus of his personal attention moving forward. For the Bills, plenty will depend on the play of their remaining backs, especially Cook, given the responsibility he is expected to shoulder in 2023.