With the playoffs in sight and a potential win-or-go-home game left, the Buffalo Bills could be turning to a running back with a knack for postseason success.
The team announced that veteran running back Leonard Fournette — who earned the nickname “Playoff Lenny” for his strong performances in the playoffs including a Super Bowl run with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — would be elevated for Sunday’s season finale against the Miami Dolphins.
Fournette’s elevation comes as some insiders called on the team to bench fellow veteran back Latavius Murray, who has seen his role in the offense shrink and had a pair of costly miscues in Week 17.
Bills Call on Veteran Back
The Bills signed Fournette on October 30, adding him to the practice squad after running back Damien Harris was placed on injured reserve. Though head coach Sean McDermott hinted that Fournette could enter the lineup soon after his signing, former practice squad back Ty Johnson was elevated to the roster and cemented a spot at No. 2 behind James Cook.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 6, 2024
Fournette expressed some frustration with the situation, saying in an interview with the Buffalo News that it was a “humbling” experience to stay on a practice squad rather than an active roster. Fournette has a total of 4,498 yards and 34 touchdowns over the course of his seven-year career, adding 312 catches for 2,219 yards and seven receiving touchdowns.
The Bills did elevate Fournette once this season, rushing five times for 20 yards in the team’s 24-22 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on December 23.
The Bills face a critical game on January 7, with a win over the Dolphins giving them a fourth consecutive division title and a loss potentially sending them home without a playoff berth.
Change at Running Back for Buffalo?
Fournette’s elevation could signal a change at running back for the Bills for the season finale. The Bills brought in Murray last offseason to add much-needed size to the backfield, and he often excelled in short-yardage situations earlier in the season. Though he has 79 carries for 300 yards this season with four touchdowns, along with 17 catches for 119 yards, Murray has seen his role in the offense diminish and had just one carry over the course of the last two games.
Murray struggled in the team’s 27-21 win over the Patriots on December 31, failing to gain a yard on a 3rd-and-1 carry and dropping a pass on another third-down play.
Joe DiBiase of WGR 550 that the Bills could send Murray to the bench amid the struggles.
“Next veteran to be a healthy inactive should be Latavius Murray,” DiBiase wrote on X.
CBS Sports suggested that Murray could soon see his role taken over by Fournette.
“Murray has just the one carry over the past two games and hasn’t exceeded 32 percent of the offensive snaps in any of the past four games,” the report noted. “With James Cook thriving in the bell cow role and quarterback Josh Allen tied for second in the league with 15 rushing touchdowns, it’s only scraps left for Murray and Ty Johnson, and now Leonard Fournette is even an option.”