If C.J. Spiller is utilized properly and Fred Jackson stays healthy, they could be one of the NFL’s best running back tandems in 2013. (Photo: USA Today Sports Images)
BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot
There aren’t many positions on the Buffalo Bills that make other teams envious, but running back is definitely one of them. The combination of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson as a one-two punch is exciting, especially after Spiller’s breakout 2012 season. After Buffalo’s “dynamic duo,” however, the rest of the depth chart is uncertain.
What should Bills fans expect from the running back position in 2013? Take a look and see.
In 2012, C.J. Spiller made the most of his opportunities. It took Spiller 207 carries to rush for 1,244 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. He also added 43 receptions for 459 yards and two touchdowns. Besides touchdown receptions, all of those were career-high numbers.
In 2013, expect Spiller to see new career highs in carries and receptions. First, there’s finally no argument: Spiller IS Buffalo’s lead back. In 2012, the dynamic rusher saw a shade under 13 carries per game on average. His workload is going to increase in his fourth year.
As for receptions, this projection is based upon head coach Doug Marrone’s time in New Orleans as offensive coordinator. During his three years with the Saints (2006-2008), Reggie Bush averaged 71 receptions per season. No disrespect to Bush, but Spiller is more dangerous in the open field and Marrone will use this to his advantage.
Don’t be surprised if Spiller leads the league in running back receptions in 2013.
While Jackson is no longer the lead back in Buffalo’s backfield, he’ll still play an important role in the Bills’ offense in 2013.
Jackson will be the Bills’ go-to option in short yardage and goal-line situations. As pointed out by Rotoworld’s Mike Clay, Spiller received zero carries within the 4-yard line in 2012. While elusive, Spiller’s 5’11, 200-pound frame isn’t ideal for grinding out tough yards. Jackson will be the beneficiary of this as he has shown his ability to run inside the tackles in the past.
Jackson knows he will have to prove himself with a new coaching staff. In a piece written by Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News, Jackson said he can still play at a high level.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “I still feel like I can play at a very high level, and all I need is the opportunity to do so. Yes, I had some injuries last year, but I feel without those I could have done some things for us.”
Injuries should worry Bills fans most when it comes to Jackson. Clay pointed out that Jackson has missed 12 of Buffalo’s last 32 games with injuries.
At age 32, Jackson may actually benefit from being the team’s second running back. He’ll still receive his fair share of carries but won’t have to worry about the wear and tear of being an every-down back. This may also help Jackson in terms of ball security. In 2012, Jackson tied his career high with five fumbles and set a new career high of four fumbles lost. Those are clearly not totals that Jackson hopes to increase in 2013.
After Jackson, the team will most likely only carry only one other back. The candidates to be the team’s third running back come down to Tashard Choice, Drew Smith and Zach Brown. Kendall Gaskins, while listed as a running back, will most likely be competing with Frank Summers at fullback.
Choice, the veteran among the three running backs hoping to make the Bills, had a solid 2012 season as the team’s third running back. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry and carried the ball 47 times for the team. Against the Browns, Choice had 20 carries for 91 yards when Spiller exited the game with an injury, with Jackson already out for that game.
Choice is not nearly as talented as Spiller and Jackson, but he does well in a limited role. It’s something that Doug Marrone will certainly consider when deciding on the Bills’ final 53-man roster.
Don’t be shocked if Drew Smith beats out Choice for the team’s third running back. Smith had quite a career at Albany where he ran for 3,196 career rushing yards and 45 touchdowns. Pete Harris, a scouting assistant for the Bills, told BuffaloBills.com about Smith’s power.
“If he keeps his pads down he’s going to run you over,” said Harris. “Obviously it’s a big jump up in competition, but aside from his rushing ability he’s great in pass protection. He is physical and will stone blitzers. He likes contact and can catch the ball out of the backfield and did a lot for them.”
Now would be an ideal time for the Bills to add more youth to their backfield. With Jackson being 32 years old, the team would like to groom someone who could eventually replace him.
Smith is a talented runner and like Jackson, he is outstanding at picking up blitzes, although picking up blitzes in college is much different than doing so in the NFL. Smith also had 51 receptions in his final two collegiate seasons. If Smith makes the Bills’ roster, you won’t see him much in 2013 unless an injury occurs. That said, the team would have a possible heir apparent to Jackson.
Brown was a member of the Bills’ practice squad in 2012 and signed a future contract with the team on December 31. That being said, don’t expect much from Brown. The former Pitt running back can run well between the tackles, but he lacks burst. He faces an uphill battle to make the team’s roster in 2013.
Bills fans, who do you see making the team’s roster at running back? What expectations do you have for each back? Share your responses with us here at Buffalo Bills Draft!
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