The Buffalo Bills have two very good, maybe great, running backs on their roster. Head Coach Chan Gailey admits it can be a bit difficult figuring out how to get them both the football. Factor in that Fred Jackson might not be 100% healthy, and what we see on film, and the conclusion is clear. CJ Spiller should start.
We all know how effective Fred Jackson can be as a running back. He’s often been referred to as the “heart and soul” of the Buffalo Bills and there is no denying his importance to the team and the franchise. However it’s becoming more and more apparent that the Bills best running back is CJ Spiller.
It’s quite possible that Jackson is still not at 100% and that’s part of the reason that he can’t keep up with Spiller’s pace. It’s also quite likely that the tandem works in part because it is a 1-2 punch. However it looks like the 1 and the 2 should be switched. Heading into Week 7 of the season, it doesn’t look like it should be 1 and 1a either.
CJ Spiller needs more carries.
First off we’ll take a look at the numbers this year.
CJ Spiller - 60 carries, 453 yards, Long 53 yds, 7.6 ypc, 4 TDs, 18 First Downs
Fred Jackson - 44 carries, 126 yards, Long 11 yds, 2.9 ypc, 1 TD, 7 First Downs
Think about that. In order to catch CJ and pull even Fred Jackson would have to get 327 yards on 16 carries.
Spiller was the league’s leading rusher heading into Week 3 and there is a strong case to be made that without the injury suffered in the Browns game that he’d have been the leader after Week 3 and maybe on past that (He had just 16 yards rushing against CLE). The injuries have certainly confounded this matter a bit.
Fred Jackson’s longest run in the Cardinals game was for 7 yards.
Spiller has had the longer run in every game. He has 11 runs of 10 yards or more this season. Jackson has one.
Spiller’s splits show that he can run up the middle. His yards per carry on run plays designated as “Middle” according to ESPNs splits - 28 carries, for 255 yards. That’s 9.1 yards per carry going up the middle.
However, the Eye in the Sky from Arizona tells quite the tale for CJ. He’s killing teams. He’s giving DBs fits. He’s a player to gameplan for. You’d better believe opposing defenses are watching what you’re about to see.
CJ Spiller v. The Arizona Cardinals.
Fred Jackson’s first carry was not a good one. A fumble on the first play of the game that cost the Bills three points and is generally uncharacteristic of #22. CJ Spiller’s first carry of the game was a preview of things to come.
1st and 10 - Bills 2nd possession - Ball at the 25 yard line.
The Bills run a play to the right side and there is room to make a play.
Corey McIntyre sprints into the hole ahead of Spiller looking for someone to block leaving Spiller matched up 1-on-1 with Arizona LB Daryl Washington.
And here is where Spiller shines...
Spiller bluffs the cutback move, and then continues to the outside, leaving Washington in the dust.
Spiller continues to the outside for what goes as a 9 yard gain on his first carry.
1st and Goal - Cardinals leading 3-2 - Spiller’s 10 yard TD run
It's a run to the left side, where Spiller has an awful lot of success. LB #94, Sam Acho sheds the block of TE Scott Chandler and begins to crash down the line looking for Spiller. He has help too.
Safety Kerry Rhodes sees the handoff and both he and Acho converge on Spiller who begins with the football at the 15 yard line. Spiller stays close to LT Chris Hairston here, sucking in Acho...
...and then BOOM - right by Rhodes on a great move that grants him passage into the endzone.
You can actually SEE Rhodes grabbing air...and Spiller is on his way to 6 points with speed to the corner.
The Bills take the lead for the first time.
3rd Quarter - 2nd and 3 - Cardinals leading 13-9 - Spiller’s 33 yard run
Perhaps CJ's best run of the day (And I think you could make a case for a few) was the 33 yard run that helped set up the Bills 3rd quarter TD drive that was finished off by Fred Jackson.
Spiller takes a handoff from Ryan Fitzpatrick as the ball is snapped from the 50 yard line. Spiller immediately cuts to the left as Chris Hairston rides his block (who goes on an inside move). Hairston ushers the defender into a pile and Spiller's plant and drive to the left opens things up.
The Cardinals frequently appeared to have things covered in cases like this. However, it's a move to set up a move from Spiller. First the cut left. Then...
A lane opens up as Andy Levitre and Eric Wood create the hole. Spiller recognizes it and plants to turn straight up field. This is perhaps his biggest strength as a runner lately. Breaking down his game against New England you'd see this time and time again. Spiller plants and bursts up the field.
Safety Adrian Wilson has eyes on Spiller in the backfield, but the plant and drive renders him an afterthought.
On to the second level where Spiller and Kerry Rhodes have 17 yards to figure out a gameplan.
As Spiller approaches Rhodes strafes the 30 yard line...waiting.
Spiller slows and straightens up, prepared to throw his best move at him.
Outside plant foot takes a bluff step on a cut-back to the inside...
He immediately shifts, opening up Rhodes and darts off for the corner. He dusts him at the 30 yard line and maybe could have beaten him to the corner if not for the Cards DB covering Stevie Johnson that comes into the frame...slows Spiller...and ultimately he's caught at the 17 yard line.
2 plays later the Bills are into the endzone on the Jackson TD, and they reclaim the lead.
OT - 2nd and 10 - Spiller’s 17 yard run to get the Bills into “Field Goal Range” (that they opted not to kick)
He scored the first TD. He had the biggest play to set up the team's 2nd TD. He also put the Bills into field goal range (if you consider the 35 yard line FG range which the Bills did not on Sunday. Debate that here.)
The handoff goes between the tackles (don't let anyone tell you that Spiller can't run here) and the blocks are solid. Wood locks on to his man and Levitre and Hairston also get good blocks on the left side (right if looking at the picture).
LB #58 Daryl Washington seems to be stuck here...wondering if Spiller is going to cut to the outside or back inside. Spiller patiently sets him up here and cuts to the middle of the field and to daylight. He's met quickly by safety Adrian Wilson.
Guess what happens...
Spiller plants as if he's going turn straight up field but then...
As Maverick would say "Hit the brakes and he'll fly right by" (Sorry...mandatory Top Gun reference).
As Spiller drops Wilson with the move, the next challenger comes from behind.
Contact at the 41 yard line. Spiller, the master of the juke, double-juke, set up juke, and blazing speed drops a spin move.
Spiller breaks away and he's finally ridden down by three tacklers at the 35 yard line.
While Chan Gailey might think that a 50-50 split is the right call, I no longer do. CJ Spiller showed it last season when Fred Jackson was injured. He showed it again this year from game one. He's an explosive back who has shown an ability to carry the ball to the outside, and up the middle. He's a receiving threat. He's a gamebreaker. He's as important as any player that this offense has. Fred Jackson still has a spot on this team...that goes without saying.
If there are 30 carries in a game, the Bills might like to go 15 and 15.
The ball in his hands changes this offense. Merely his presence on the field does as well.
It's time. 20 carries for CJ or bust.