Darian Barnes doesn’t mind blocking out of the backfield.
Whenever Buffalo gets a red-zone touchdown this season, you can expect that Darian Barnes will have a hand in it.
The fullback, who is entering his first season with the Bills, won’t be diving over a human pile or catching any play-action passes, though. He will be leading the likes of Marshawn Lynch or Fred Jackson into the end zone.
This is life for a fullback in today’s NFL, where you are more likely to be confused for a tackle than a running back.
Barnes doesn’t mind filling the role of a bruiser instead of a finesse running back. The seventh-year pro is 6-foot-2 and weighs in at 240 pounds. In 66 career games, he has carried the ball a grand total of five times and made 14 receptions.
The Bills signed him in January after he was released by the Jets.
“It’s going good. I feel like I have a good grasp of the offense,” Barnes said about his first training camp with the Bills. “I am jelling with the line and with the other backs.”
Barnes is part of a dying breed in the NFL.
The fullback position continues to be eliminated by offenses around the league as coaches try to maximize the number of athletes on the field. NFL offenses are now more geared to having three wide receivers than two running backs.
The Buffalo coaching staff made it clear to Barnes in the offseason about their intention to utilize the two-back set, and the veteran has taken advantage of his opportunity.
“Darian has done a really nice job through OTAs (offseason training activities) and into training camp,” said head coach Dick Jauron. “He is very physical and has good size. He understands the position and understands what we want from him. He has experience playing (fullback), so he becomes a very valuable guy in our offense.”
Barnes may not put the ball in end zone, but he’s expected to help Buffalo get six points on the board more often than last season, when the Bills finished 30th in the NFL with 20 offensive touchdowns, including only eight by rush. Only 10 of the team’s touchdowns came inside the red zone.
Barnes’ blocking will come in handy as Buffalo’s offensive line continues to go through personnel issues. Jason Peters is still holding out, and tackles Patrick Estes and Matt Murphy have been injured in training camp.
“I think it helps our run game a lot actually,” said quarterback Trent Edwards. “With Darian (Barnes) and Jonathan (Evans) in front, picking up the linebackers blitzing through the gap, I think this fits Turk’s (Schonert) offensive style a little bit better.”
Barnes’ career began in Tampa Bay in 2002, when he helped pave the way for a Buccaneers victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. He spent two years there before moving on to Dallas, Miami and the Jets. He scored his only career touchdown with the Cowboys in 2004.
“It was a blur,” Barnes said about winning the Super Bowl. “The only thing I really remember was the game. It was great because I got a chance to block for Mike Alstott. That was really exciting and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life much less my career.”
Barnes started his college career as a tailback at Rutgers before transferring to Hampton University of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“The league is very tough, kind of a gritty place to play,” Barnes said. “Playing that level of college football is hard. When I got there I got to see how aggressive I really was. After playing the position for a while it became natural and I fell into it.”
Bryan Sullivan is covering Buffalo Bills training camp for Messenger Post Newspapers. He can be reached at (585) 394-0770 ext. 273 or email@example.com.