The Bills bolstered their running back depth when they signed James Wilder Jr. The big back; listed at 6’3″ 232 pounds was on the Bengals last year but only saw time in their preseason games. He played pretty well in those games racking up 161 yards on 39 carries while getting into the end zone three times. Not many people know about him, except for the guys on the Bills. There are several former Florida St. players that played with Wilder Jr. in college including EJ Manuel, Nick O’leary and Karlos Williams.
With the Bills deep at the running back position it will be very tough for him to make the roster, but many think that he is being brought in to replace RB Anthony Dixon. Dixon is a fan favorite, but with the Bills cap strapped and Dixon due 1.3 million in 2016, Dixon may be released. That competition should bring out the best in both of these guys.
Bringing in Wilder Jr. could make Dixon expendable for a few reasons. Mainly because Wilder is fully capable of being a really good special teams player. He is a guy that can get down the field and make the tackles.
Secondly, one of Wilder’s strengths is his running between the tackles in short yardage situations. He isn’t the fastest back, but he has the patience when he runs. A lot of his runs at Florida St. and even with the Bengals were inside zone and power runs out of the Shotgun formation. Concepts the Bills run quite frequently.
Wilder has good hands, he caught 24 balls for 182 yards and two TDs at Florida St. With the Bengals he chipped in 4 catches for 22 yards.
The most exciting traits that have flashed on film are his vision and balance. As mentioned, he isn’t the fastest back but his vision and balance make up for it. He is patient, but then gets downhill as the hole opens. His split leg running style causes issues for defenders because arm tackles and improper tackling techniques do not bring him down. His hips and shoulders are always square to the LOS and he can absorb the blows by defenders.
His roster spot is not guaranteed though, he will have to impress the staff over the next few months if he plans on carving a niche out. Welcome to the Bills and good luck this off-season and in 2016!!
Take a look at the video of Wilder Jr. in college and in the NFL.