Bills, McCoy look to boost stagnant run game
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — LeSean McCoy is doing his best to remain patient. It hasn't been easy.
Buffalo's trademark rushing attack has gone missing one month into the season, making things more difficult for a new-look offense trying to find its identity with a rookie quarterback. McCoy has surprisingly been a nonfactor for Buffalo with the running game stuck in neutral.
"We're just trying to figure it out," McCoy said.
Getting back to basics in the run game is a point of emphasis for the Bills (1-3) as they look for a much-needed spark. The 31st-ranked offense was expected to lean on McCoy this season, but so far that hasn't been the case. The Bills are 24th in rushing, down from sixth a year ago, and McCoy hasn't been a focal point like in previous years.
In three games, McCoy has 85 yards rushing on 21 attempts. He also has eight receptions for 41 yards, giving him 126 yards from scrimmage on the season — typical numbers in a single game for McCoy.
McCoy did miss one game with a rib injury but was not limited due to the injury in Week 4 against Green Bay, a game in which he saw only five carries.
"At the end of the day, all I can control is just when I get the ball in my hand, making plays when my number is called," McCoy said. "It's as simple as that. Help the team win games. ... They know I want to be involved. They know I want to get the ball every play, so they know that."
The Bills built their offense around McCoy the previous two years and he rewarded them handsomely. A Pro Bowler in five consecutive seasons, McCoy had a career-best average of 5.4 yards per carry in 2016 (along with 1,267 yards, the fourth-highest total of his career) and 1,138 rushing yards a season ago, when he helped lead the Bills to their first playoff berth since 1999.
Getting McCoy involved would be welcome for Buffalo for a variety of reasons. Not only is McCoy the team's best playmaker, the Bills are looking to take pressure off Josh Allen, who struggled mightily against the Packers. Allen had just 58 yards passing in the first half against Green Bay and finished with 151 yards and two interceptions.
"The game plan we have to win football games here in Buffalo is manage the game, play great defense, score in the red zone," McCoy said. "It's all the small things, give ourselves a chance to win. That's all I can really say. We're not the first team with a young quarterback. Because with a formula like that, you need a good running game, you need a great defense to help the young quarterback out. And I think we have that."
McCoy will need some assistance from the rest of Buffalo's struggling offense. The line has had difficulty moving on from Eric Wood, Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn, who all departed in the offseason. And the wide receivers, led by the inconsistent Kelvin Benjamin, have had trouble creating separation downfield and catching the ball with consistency.
Coach Sean McDermott stressed the need for Buffalo to be better along the line of scrimmage.
"If you don't win at the line of scrimmage in the run or the pass game, you've got no chance," McDermott said. "That's a football fundamental 101 and we have to win at the line of scrimmage. You go back and you double down on things you believe in: the fundamentals, mindset, the plan. There's a lot of hands in that, it's not just the offensive line. It's every position establishing the line of scrimmage."
The task will be difficult on Sunday against Tennessee. The Titans (3-1) have yet to allow a rushing touchdown and have only allowed seven touchdowns total.
"We've got to make these adjustments offensively," McDermott said. "That running game's gotta get going."
NOTES: Safeties Micah Hyde (groin) and Rafael Bush (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday. Bush is considered day to day, while Hyde is week to week. ... The Bills claimed defensive tackle Jordan Phillips off waivers from Miami and released defensive tackle Robert Thomas. Phillips had a sideline outburst on Sunday in Miami's 38-7 loss to New England and said on his Instagram account Tuesday that he "couldn't be happier" to leave Miami. Phillips was a second-round pick of the Dolphins in 2015.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL