Buffalo Bills’ Home Run Threat
To call Spiller’s rookie season a disappointment would be an understatement. Spiller played in 14 games and started in Week 1 against the Dolphins, but was grossly underused. During the season, Spiller did not register one game with double-digit carries.
Some blamed Buffalo’s crowded backfield, but the Bills traded Lynch in October of 2010. Most assumed that this was a sign that the Bills planned on using Spiller more. There was a slight increase in Spiller’s carry total following the trade, but he finished the season with a mere 74 rushing attempts. He finished with 283 yards on the ground, giving him a lousy 3.8 yards per carry. In the receiving game, Spiller finished with 24 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Spiller’s sophomore season in Buffalo saw increases across the board, but it took patience and an injury to his competition. In 2011, Spiller played in all 16 games and started in 11 contests. Spiller received two starts in Buffalo’s first five games, but was rarely given the ball. Through the first five games, Spiller had a total of 15 carries, an average of three carries a game.
To make matters worse, Spiller did not see any carries against the Giants and Redskins in the Bills’ next two contests.
Over the next three contests, Spiller received six carries for eight yards. At this point in his career, Bills fans were worried. Spiller hadn’t seen enough time on the field for fans to know what type of player he could become. Chan Gailey wasn’t using his former first round draft pick. In some cases, a player loses confidence when being underused. Luckily, Spiller was not one of these players.
Spiller’s first true opportunity in the NFL arose when Fred Jackson fractured his fibula against the Dolphins in Week 11. While no one would wish injury upon Jackson, this was apparently the only way Spiller was going to get his opportunity. From that point on, Spiller has become Buffalo’s lead back.
Spiller’s total carry saw a significant increase as he rushed the ball 86 times over the last six weeks of the 2011 season for 446 yards, averaging out to 5.2 yards per carry. Spiller carried the ball no less than 12 times per contest in each of the season’s final six games.
Spiller had his first career 100-yard game against the Broncos in Week 16, Buffalo’s last victory of the season. He rushed for 111 yards on 16 carries.
His overall stats on the year were 107 carries for 561 yards (5.2-yard average) and four touchdowns on the ground. In the receiving game, he added 39 receptions for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
Spiller was expected to again share the backfield duties with Fred Jackson in 2012. However, Jackson sprained his lateral-collateral ligament in Week 1 of the season. Spiller took over and found individual success over the first two weeks of the season. Against the Jets and Chiefs in Weeks 1-2, Spiller rushed the ball a total of 29 times for 292 yards, an insane 10.1 yards per carry, with three total touchdowns. He added five receptions for 72 yards.
Spiller looked like a back who was ready to overtake the starting job, but he suffered a shoulder injury against the Browns in Week 3.
Spiller returned to action the following week against the Patriots, but in a limited capacity. Spiller did not start from Week 4 to Week 10, but was a valuable contributor. Spiller carried the ball 54 times in those six contests for 324 yards and one touchdown. He added 183 yards on 21 receptions.
Spiller became the team’s starter after Jackson suffered a concussion in Week 10 versus the Patriots. The team had a Thursday Night game against the Dolphins and Spiller played the role of a workhorse running back. He carried the ball 22 times for 91 yards and added three receptions for 39 yards in Buffalo’s 19-14 victory.
Spiller started the rest of the season and rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the Bills’ final six games.
Over the last seven weeks of the season, Spiller rushed for 612 yards on 120 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Spiller also added 201 yards on 15 receptions and a total of three touchdowns, two on the ground and one receiving.
Spiller finished the season with 207 carries for 1,244 yards, an average of 6.0 yards per carry, and six rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, Spiller had 43 receptions for 459 yards and two touchdowns.
Spiller was undoubtedly the team’s MVP in 2012.
2012 Analytics (Provided by Pro Football Focus-Subscription Required)
- Spiller had the second highest rating among running backs in 2012. His +25.4 rating was second only to Adrian Peterson’s +29.8.
- Spiller’s Rating Breakdown: Pass: +7.1, Run: +19.7, Blocking: -1.7, Penalty: +0.3.
- Spiller was credited with 53 missed tackles forced, good for fourth in the league behind Peterson (64), Lynch (58) and Alfred Morris (57).
- Spiller’s Elusiveness Rating was a 94.6, best in the NFL. Peterson came in second with a 72.0 rating. The formula to find this amount is (Missed Tackles Forced/(Carries+Receptions))*(Yards After Contact * 100).
- Spiller had a 39.9 Breakaway Percentage — the percentage of yards that came on runs of 15+ yards — third behind Peterson and Jamaal Charles.
- Spiller was targeted 55 times in 2012. Spiller caught 43 passes and had only one drop during the season. The other 11 passes were deemed uncatchable.
Final Grade: B+
In 2012, Bills fans got to see first-hand just how special of a player Spiller was on the field. Unfortunately, the previous coaching regime only gave Spiller opportunities when injuries arose. It’s clear that Gailey wasn’t quite sure how to utilize Spiller.
While Spiller himself deserves an A+ for his play on the field, I have to knock the pick’s overall grade down a bit due to how underutilized he was in his first two seasons.
Under Doug Marrone, I believe Spiller will finally get the opportunities he deserves. If healthy, I see Spiller receiving 200+ rush attempts while pulling in at least 60 receptions. The reception total may even be higher than my prediction. When Marrone was offensive coordinator of the Saints, Reggie Bush averaged 71 receptions between 2006-2008.