By Lucas McMillan
At the beginning of the season, the Buffalo Bills had an embarrassment of riches at running back. Now, thanks to injury, the strength of their backfield has been severely diminished. Both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are recovering from fairly serious-looking injuries (Spiller’s shoulder was driven into the turf in Week 3 and Jackson sprained his knee in Week 1) and are being treated with kid gloves by the Bills.
The team was in sore need of their two star running backs on Sunday in a 52-28 blowout loss to their division rivals, the New England Patriots. Fred Jackson had 16 touches in the game while Spiller only had ten. As has been the trend so far this season, Spiller was the more productive back, averaging 4.1 yards per carry while Jackson only sputtered to 2.2 yards per carry on the day.
Through the first two weeks of the season, C.J. Spiller looked like the best offensive player in football. The former first round pick from Clemson has shown flashes of absolute brilliance in his running ability, but hadn’t really had the breakout many anticipated. Before his injury in Week 3, all indications were that this would be his year to shine.
In Week 1, he rushed for 169 yards on only 14 carries, scoring once. He put up similar numbers in Week 2, rushing for 123 yards on 15 carries while scoring twice. Even in Week 3, before he was injured, he caught a touchdown. His total statistics through the first several weeks are astonishing: 341 yards on 41 attempts for an insane 8.3 yards per rush average, nine receptions for 119 yards (a 13.2 yards per catch average) and four total touchdowns. With very limited touches, Spiller was making a strong case for himself as one of the most explosive offensive playmakers in the NFL.
Jackson, meanwhile, is another solid contributor on offense, though his Week 1 injury makes his statistics tough to judge due to the small sample size. However, if they can both return to 100 percent, the Bills offense could be firing on all cylinders. It isn’t the same team when the offense has to rely on Ryan Fitzpatrick, as was clearly illustrated in the Bills’ Sunday loss to the Patriots. At his best, Fitzpatrick is a game manager, someone who expertly runs a play action-oriented passing offense to chip away at defenses. The problems for him begin when he is asked to do too much, like in Sunday’s game against the Pats. All things considered, he played pretty well, going 22 for 39 for 350 yards and four touchdowns. However, he also threw four picks, effectively sealing the Bills’ fate.
Even if it takes a while for both Spiller and Jackson to fully return to 100 percent, the Bills are in capable hands. The third string running back, former Dallas Cowboy Tashard Choice, is an above-average back that could probably start on many, less running back-stacked teams. His presence allows the Bills to at least be careful with the recoveries of their two best offensive weapons. However, if the Bills are going to live up to their sizable potential and claim a spot in the playoffs, they will need Jackson and Spiller to finish nursing their wounds and return to cutting through defensive lines.
Lucas McMillan writes for FootballSchedule.me. For the latest Buffalo Bills news, commentary and schedule information, visit FootballSchedule.me. Follow Football Schedule on Facebook and Twitter @FBSchedule.