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Devin Singletary, Bills’ ‘bowling ball’ of a back, shines with more work

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — For weeks, Buffalo Bills fans clamored and reporters prodded for the answer to the same question — why isn’t Devin Singletary a larger part of the game plan? The Bills might have provided their answer Sunday, when the rookie running back was a major part of the game plan.

He produced 140 total yards in Buffalo’s 24-9 win against the Washington Redskins, doing so on a career-high 24 touches. The yardage marked the most by a Bills player since LeSean McCoy racked up 147 yards against the Patriots in 2017.

Apart from the increased production and workload, nothing felt different to the Bills’ third-round pick; no dramatic speech in the locker room or fundamental adjustment. In his words, he kept doing what he’s done every other game he’s played in and made the most out of any opportunity he was afforded.

“It was the same approach,” Singletary said. “I was told to just stay ready, stay locked in — and when your number is called, be ready to make a play.

“I felt the same coming in, just had more opportunities.”

More opportunities, indeed. Singletary’s 20 carries Sunday matched his previous season total and his 59% usage rate on 41 snaps marked by far a career-high; his usage rate for the season was a paltry 22% entering Week 9.

His teammates rave about him — especially Frank Gore, who has mentored and trained with Singletary since his pre-draft preparation. The front office was undeniably confident in him entering the season, proven by general manager Brandon Beane’s decision to release McCoy following the preseason.

Bills safety Micah Hyde still isn’t sure if the unassuming rookie is aware of his ceiling.

“He’s a shifty guy, he’s a bowling ball — he bounces off people,” Hyde said. “I don’t even think he knows how good he is, yet. He’s always just smiling — it seems like he’s just clueless [to how good he is]. But he’s a beast, man, we love what he’s been able to do running the ball and in the receiving game. He’ll continue to get better.”

But has Singletary eclipsed Gore as the lead back? Gore wasn’t completely phased out, but was only able to muster 15 yards on 11 carries — the third-lowest yardage total on double-digit carries of his career. Singletary received Buffalo’s first 20-carry workload of 2019 as the Bills ran the ball a season-high 39 times.

Granted, this performance came against a Washington defense that’s ranked 28th against the run, despite several impact players on its defensive line. However, Buffalo’s next two games are against the Browns and Dolphins, who have the 29th and 31st-ranked run defenses, respectively. There’s not much data suggesting a similar game plan can’t work against those teams.

Bills coach Sean McDermott predictably declined to heap too much praise on Singletary, although he did lightly commend him for his game before crediting the offensive line.

McDermott also stood by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who has been the target of outside criticism over his calls over the past few weeks.

“I thought the game plan was a good game plan put together by our coaching staff — Brian Daboll and his staff,” McDermott said. “It’s never just one guy but it’s good to get Devin going, for sure.”

No matter how many people were responsible for Singletary’s performance, it’s difficult to justify any game plan that doesn’t involve him moving forward.

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