BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Running back James Cook put together his best day as a pro in the Buffalo Bills’ 24-10 win over the New England Patriots, leading the team with 64 rushing yards on 14 carries and adding career highs in catches (6) and receiving yards (41).
But when wide receiver Stefon Diggs -- who played with Cook’s brother, Dalvin, in Minnesota -- was asked about his impressions of James' performance, he didn’t overstate what the rookie did.
“I told him it was all right,” Diggs said. “… I think [James is] a special player. He's young, but he's a special player. I told him, 'One, he gotta get his knees up and stop falling on the ground all the time, but two, it's more out there for him. Make sure he's not leaving no meat on the bone.’”
Cook, 23, was more heavily involved in the Bills offense than he had been in any other game this season. The second-round pick out of Georgia played 42.7% of the offensive snaps -- up from a season-high of 26.5% vs. the Tennessee Titans in Week 2 -- and had 20 touches.
The Bills offense has done a better job recently of taking pressure off quarterback Josh Allen, both in the rushing and passing games. In two of the last three games, Bills running backs have rushed for over 100 yards, including against a Patriots defense that had allowed the eighth-fewest rushing yards going into the game.
The Bills are 7-0 when their running backs go over 75 rushing yards.
“I thought [offensive coordinator] Coach [Ken] Dorsey did a really good job of changing it up,” coach Sean McDermott said after Thursday's win in New England. “When the run is working like it was at times, just being able to stick with it. ... I thought he was very patient in that regard and the O-line I thought did a very good job up front."
Running back Devin Singletary leads the Bills with 603 yards, overtaking Allen last week as the team's leading rusher. Allen still has the most rushing touchdowns on the team (five). Singletary, a 2019 third-round pick, is set to hit free agency this offseason, which could open up more opportunities for Cook next season.
“[Cook’s] dynamic with the ball in his hands,” Allen said. “Found some good lanes [against the Patriots]."
Cook & Co.'s next challenge comes Sunday against the New York Jets (1 p.m. ET, CBS), a defense that has allowed the eleventh-fewest rushing yards. In the Bills' last meeting with the Jets in Week 9, Buffalo's running backs were held to 39 yards.
“I think just every week you see him continually get more and more comfortable,” Dorsey said of Cook. “I think he did a great job catching balls out of the backfield, getting north and south, and creating opportunities for [yards] after the catch just by being available and by quick turning and getting north [against the Patriots].
"And he's really kind of continued to evolve from all three phases that a back needs to be and that's running the ball, receiving the ball and then obviously in pass protection for Josh.”
Allen noted yards after the catch was an area he hoped that the offense could improve on in 2022, and Cook brings that element. Among Bills receivers with at least 150 receiving yards, Cook leads with 7.4 yards after catch per reception.
With more experience, Cooks' role should only grow. And Diggs will be pushing him along the way.
“I anticipate, me staying on him real, real hard from this point forward,” Diggs said. “But he's a good player. Continue to grow, continue to get better. He has the right mindset and I'm getting behind that guy. I like that kid.”