While I was starting to get nervous that the Bills were going to hold out on the signing of C.J. Spiller a little too long, the Bills finally agreed to terms with their first round selection (9th overall) and I don’t know how much longer they could have afforded to wait.
Spiller has game-breaking speed and playmaking ability. Some scouts have compared him to Reggie Bush, but I think he can do more than return kicks and date talentless reality televsion stars. His potential could be upwards of Chris Johnson, the Tennessee Titans’ star. Spiller and Johnson have a nearly identical frame, and both feature breakaway speed once they get into the open field. Spiller scored 51 touchdowns in his college career at Clemson, with an astounding 21 of them of 50 or more yards. He showed an ability to be a threat in the kick return game, the passing game and the running game in his four years at Clemson. He can’t help but energize an offense desperate to climb out of the bottom quarter of the league.
The preseason is just a week away for the Bills, and having Spiller out there on the field is necessary to get him up to speed in the offense. It’s one thing to go through the plays in camp, but it’s a different ballgame when you’re in live competition against real opponents. I know getting a running back into camp is not as vital as getting most other positions in on time because the running back’s job is more reactionary than, say, a quarterback’s who has to know everyone else’s role on the offense, but Spiller needs to do much more than run to help this team.
The Bills have lacked a playmaker on offense to complement Lee Evans since…Eric Moulds? I’m pretty sure that’s the last time the Bills had a viable offense. While I’m hopeful that TE Shawn Nelson is putting work in this offseason, and providing Trent a checkdown option of more than three yards, the Bills desperately need some versatility out of Spiller. Since the Bills do have two quality backs in Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch (that guy just runs people over), Spiller’s role will be more varied in the offense and he’ll need to know the passing game as well as the running game in his rookie season.
Spiller has said he’s been in touch with Trent Edwards and Fred Jackson, plus the deal he signed was pretty modest for a top 10 pick in the NFL these days. A lot of the money he could make is incentive-laden, which makes a lot of sense to me for guys who have yet to play in the NFL. Spiller starts practicing tonight, and the Bills offense, which has sputtered against the defense thus far in camp, couldn’t have gotten him in camp soon enough.