AFC East Debate: Dolphins RBs or Bills RBs?

While I was preparing for my vacation, I was wondering what might make for interesting discussion while I was away. I bounced around a couple of ideas. But in the end, I thought that comparing the division rivals at a couple of key positions might be fun.

We're going to start with the Buffalo Bills. When looking at Buffalo's roster, I felt the position that would be the most interesting comparison to Miami would be at running back. I've noticed when reviewing a lot of these offseason rankings and fantasy football rankings that Buffalo's group of backs seemed to be ranked right around (and often times even ahead of) Miami's stable of backs.

So which group is better? I will share my (cough) "unbiased" (cough) thoughts below. I've also enlisted the help of Brian Galliford, who heads Buffalo Rumblings for SBN, to give us Buffalo's point of view on the subject.

Why the Dolphins have the better backs
There aren't many teams that can say they have two running backs as talented and accomplished as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Both have 1,000 yard seasons under their belts. Both have been to the Pro Bowl in the past. And both are threats not just as runners but as receivers out of the backfield.

Yes, I'm aware that Ronnie is coming off of yet another season-ending injury. But when he's healthy, he's an elite talent in this league. He's as versatile as any running back in this league. And there's really only one thing that Brown can't do - stay healthy.

Then there's Ricky Williams, who set a record last year for number of years in between 1,000 yard seasons. Witnessing Ricky's 2009 season was like watching a revival. The then 32 year old back looked like a kid again, taking over the starting role from Ronnie after he went down and simply dominating. Did he lose some steam very late in the year? Of course. But what 32 year old back wouldn't? Still, the now 33 year old provides this offense the two-headed ground attack that should again help the Dolphins run for over 2,000 yards in 2010 - something Buffalo failed to do in 2009.

Patrick Cobbs also deserves a mention here. You can't look at the box score to see everything Cobbs can do for a team. But just ask Tony Sparano what he thinks of Cobbs and then you'd know just how important he is to this offense. Do you think it's just a coincidence that the 'Wildcat' struggled a bit once Cobbs went down with his knee injury?

I can talk all day about the tailbacks. But what puts the Dolphins ahead of the Bills, in my opinion, is their fullback - simply the best fullback in the league. Period. Lousaka Polite has been nothing short of spectacular in Miami. He's a dominant lead blocker and the best short-yardage back in the NFL, converting 17 of 18 3rd or 4th down opportunities with two or fewer yards to go. To me, Polite is the "X factor" and gives the Dolphins the edge.

Why the Bills have the better backs
As individual football players, I believe that C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson are able to do more on the football field than Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Patrick Cobbs and Lex Hilliard - which is saying a lot, since I happen to have tremendous respect for Miami's backfield, and Williams in particular.

Brown, Williams and Cobbs have all been tremendously productive not only as rushers, but with the help of the Wildcat. Those three players have proven their worth in both facets of Miami's offense; they're all tough, fast, physical runners, and the depth of the position makes it very difficult for an opponent to stop Miami's running attack in any given game. Given the state of the two franchises, I have little doubt that Miami will field a more statistically potent rushing attack than Buffalo will in 2010.

But that doesn't mean the group of runners is better, because they're not. Lynch and Jackson have both been productive in less-than-ideal circumstances, and possess many of the same qualities that make Brown and Williams such great players. (Jackson, for example, has proven himself highly capable of operating out of a Wildcat look, as well.) Spiller, however, sets the group apart; he's the only running back in the AFC East capable of scoring from any spot on the field, at any position. His added home run ability and versatility makes Buffalo's group of runners - again, taken only from a skill standpoint - slightly better than Miami's. I'll re-iterate: that's saying a lot. These are obviously two of the more talented groups of running backs in the NFL.


A big thanks to Brian for helping us out with the Buffalo point of view. As always, your thoughts below...

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