Should Bills Part Ways With Fred Jackson?

Oct. 21, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (22) drops a ball during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

With the new coaching staff changing the look of this team, I have some questions in how far they are looking to go. Tuff decisions will have to be made and that means players will be given there walking papers. One player I think they should definitely look at is Fred Jackson.

Fred was undrafted (2003) out of Coe College a division III school. After trying out and not catching on with Chicago, Denver or Green Bay Jackson bounced around before joining the Bills. He played for the National Indoor Football League for 2years and then NFL Europe for 1 year before joining the Bills. He was deemed to small when he first tried coming into the league but the Bills were willing to give him a chance.

In 2007 he made his NFL debut with the Bills and played his way to a starter when he beat out Marshawn Lynch late in the 2009 season. He then carried the load and didn’t do a bad job but was never that complete player in mind. I mean he wasn’t bad but I just thought this team could have gotten more out of that position at the time.

Having only one season were he eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau in the 2009 season I wondered if he could ever get there again and sustain that for a few consecutive seasons. After advancing to the next season he drew close but came up short of hitting that mark. As 2011 hit we seen for the first time him get into injury trouble and him not being able to play the whole season. Stopping what would have been a great season for Jackson the injury to his fibula in my eyes changed him for the worse. When he returned to play the next season he then got hurt again and then CJ Spiller started to get on people radars. People had already got a glimpse of him the year before but now with a larger body of work fans realized that he could be something good. What Jackson lacked in speed and vision I believe Spiller picked up the slack greatly. This is where I started to think we could do without Jackson.

Going back to his stats he really never wowed anyone. The one season where it looked like it could be something special was actually the downfall to him. Although he has an AVG of 4.5 a carry and 24 total TD’s he does have 13 fumbles with 10 lost. As of late it has been getting worse for Jackson. Fumbles at key times and at the goal line are killers and you just can’t have that. The coaching staff prior it seemed was all about fairness and playing time but hopefully the new guys in charge will award playing time to the player who earns it.

I know Jackson is a leader on this team but as you can see I would like the Bills to go in a different direction. Something that really got to me last year when the whole thing came about “its Fred turn” is what Fred didn’t do. He was struggling and CJ was moving along nicely. Being the leader it was his reasonability to let the coaching staff know he wasn’t up to par and have let CJ continue to get the carries. This is a team game and Fred should have seen what was going on.
I know there’s a lot of Jackson fans but let me know in the comments what you think.

Topics: Buffalo Bills, Cj Spiller, Fred Jackson

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  • NWBill

    I think you’re off-base about Jackson; he’s been fighting injuries the past couple of seasons, and going through either multiple offensive structures or inept game planning in the meantime. Putting up the stats he has in spite of all that (CJ as well) is a testament to his talent and sheer guts. The guy is a leader, yes – and an exceptional one that has the entire locker room following him; but, he also brings it every game, and leaves it there each time. Getting rid of him would be like if the Bills got rid of Andre Reed in the middle of his prime; a stupid idea. Fred Jackson has done nothing to garner that kind of disrespect … and CJ Spiller would be the first guy to agree.
    Buffalo needs him as what he is; a guy who fights, a guy who leads, and a guy who is a great example for all of the youth on this team now.
    Move on to another topic; this one is too offensive to continue.

  • knightindentedarmor

    I agree with NWBill that you’re off-base about Fred Jackson.

    To begin with, you are forgetting how awful the Bills’ offensive line was prior to 2011. Given his limited playing time, Jackson’s production was comparable to that of Lynch and McGahee–with Jackson being a far superior receiver out of the backfield. And, how did Spiller look at that point?

    While Jackson lacks the top-end breakaway speed of the very top elite RBs (Lynch and McGahee do also) like Peterson, Charles and Spiller, Jackson is a very tough runner for a guy his size. So tough that he has gotten short yardage carries that a RB his size doesn’t usually get these days–which accounts for some of his red zone/short yardage fumbles.

    You can’t simply judge Jackson’s contributions in terms of just his rushing numbers. You have to look at his overall production: his rushing, receiving and blocking ability. Beginning with his breakout year up until 2011, Jackson was in the top 10 in combined yards from scrimmage amongst RBs, leading the league in this category when he got hurt in 2011. And, he is one of the best, if not the best, blockers in the NFL amongst the starting RBs in the league.

    The question isn’t whether Jackson can do the job when healthy; the question is whether Jackson’s injuries and age have taken such a toll that he can no longer serve as a solid complement to Spiller.

    While Jackson is 32, he doesn’t have nearly as much “mileage” on him as most backs 3-4 years younger because he simply didn’t play that much early on in his career. The problem, however, is his injuries.

    The injury that cut short Jackson’s 2011 season was a devastating one. Taking into consideration that Jackson, himself, stated that he was still at only 80% or less going into last season, it’s no wonder that he looked as bad in 2013 as you stated in your article. It’s true, Jackson didn’t look at all like the player he was prior to the injury in the playing time he got last season before getting injured again.

    The question is whether he has been able to get healthy, can he stay healthy, and can he regain something close to the form that he had prior to the 2011 injury? That’s a question that only Jackson and the coaches can answer.

    If Jackson is healthy and can regain something close to his pre-2011 injury form, he can still be a dangerous weapon and a solid complement to Spiller. His pass blocking and receiving skills alone would make him worth keeping around, not to mention his leadership in the lockerroom.

    If he isn’t healthy or can’t regain a reasonable facsimile of his pre-2011 injury form, then–and only then–the Bills will have to consider moving on. But, not before then. Even though it is possible to find good RBs late in the draft or even in free agency,it’s hard to find RBs with the combination of pass blocking and receiving skills that Fred Jackson has: most rookie RBs are woeful pass blockers (which can get your QB killed and is why coaches often keep good runners on the bench until they learn how to block) and there are quite a few who have trouble running routes and catching the ball out of the backfield. Moreover, even some of the top-rated RBs don’t have true breakaway speed. So, why give up on a healthy Fred Jackson simply because he lacks breakaway speed and has had a couple of injuries, if he is healthy again until you can find a replacement who has the potential to be equally as well-rounded? Especially when the team has so many needs to fill going into this season.

    If the Bills can fill a reasonable number of those needs with quality players this season (that means Alonzo, Pough and Lawson, the WRs and safeties, and Manuel have to demonstrate that they can fill the Bills’ needs at those positions), then they can afford to look for a RB with more speed and the potential to replace Jackson as a blocker and receiver out of the backfield in next year’s draft. If they can find such a RB prospect on the scrap heap during or after training camp that they can begin to develop as Jackson’s replacement, fine. I have no problem with the Bills bringing in a younger RB to replace Choice or Fred Jackson, if Jackson isn’t healthy enough to be a solid contributor. But, I don’t think they should and don’t want to see them do so if they don’t have to do it. The amount of money that they would save by cutting Fred Jackson simply isn’t enough to make a substantial difference at another position at this point in free agency (and don’t say that they can use it on Byrd or Wood–the team has enough money available to structure contract extensions for both of them without what they might save by cutting Jackson).

    If you don’t like Fred Jackson, fine. But, just because you don’t like him, that doesn’t mean that a healthy Fred Jackson can’t be a significant contributor to whatever success the Bills have this season or that he wasn’t a major contributor to the team prior to his 2011 injury (in fact, you could argue that Jackson was one of the very best players on those talent-poor Bills teams).

  • John

    I just have a hard time seeing him contribute at the high level people expect him too after the injuries. Hes got mileage and recent fumble troubles aren’t helping. No one ever said the guy never tried or didn’t leave it on the field but this team needs results. If you take away the one good season then your left with just an average back. Let’s see what happens

  • NWBill

    Totally, totally agree. And, I would add that no one should be surprised if the Bills are planning to draft a high end RB next year; they know more about Jackson than we do, and if they (the new regime) are as smart as they seem to be, they’ll be heavily scouting and assessing RBs for the next draft – just in case they need to do something. I doubt very much you could replace a Fred Jackson through free agency pickups – unless you’re dealing a 1st round pick, which would be stupid. Better to find one in the draft that fits your team, and do it that way.

  • NWBill

    He’s proven over and over again that he’s not an “average” back! Why not wait until he’s fully healthy before deciding he can’t play at that level anymore? The Bills have Spiller, so they are in no rush to rush Fred until he’s 100% ready to go. So, the Bills are sitting pretty in this situation. Your prejudgement of him is the thing that’s not helping; he deserves better consideration and respect for what he’s done, and who he is as a player.

  • John

    Will he be 100% ready to go again? I don’t know about that.

  • NWBill

    John, you don’t know, I don’t know, and I would assume even his doctors don’t know. That’s the whole point. If you’ve ever been injured, or spent time in a hospital, as I have, you know that the human body is a funny thing – and one person’s level of pain (or health) is different than another’s. That’s why I never get mad when my doctors barrage me with questions – until they come up with a way for doctors to read minds and climb inside a patient’s body – only that person will know anything for sure. So, you’re talking about a question that only Fred and his trainers can really answer. So, stop speculating and building assumptions on top of those speculations; until he rejoins practice, puts on the cleats, gets hit a few times, and plays a series …. you won’t have an answer. I’d prefer to give the guy the benefit of the doubt until then; no, he’s not a physical freak like Marshawn Lynch, but Fred Jackson is a Bill unless and until he can’t go anymore. That’s his call; not yours, or mine, to make.

  • John

    Alright we’ll see what’s going to happen. You know what I hope your right on him but I just don’t see it.

  • S. Yost

    I was surprised that Buffalo didn’t try to trade him prior to the draft. Maybe they didn’t feel they could get much for him which would most likely be the case. Now the benefit of holding on to him through summer, until the final roster, is that you never know who is going to get hurt on either our team or another.

  • freak

    This is one of the poorest written articles I’ve read in a long time. A little proof reading would go a long way. Tough, not tuff. “Player in mind” is missing the word “my.” “We saw” not “we seen.” Responsibility, not reasonability. There’s some other stuff that should have been cleaned up as well.

    On topic, I think you’re wrong about Fred Jackson. He is still a capable back, and is selfless (which is probably why he’s a team captain). Ask him to take a fake hand off and block a 300 pound pass rusher? He does that. Ask him to take a run up the middle for a tough two yard first down? He does that. Ask him to catch the ball for a first down? He does that.

    Most importantly however, which free agent exactly did you have in mind that’s going to replace him? What other direction _precisely_ did you have in mind? We have Spiller, Jackson, and Tashard Choice for our 3 RBs. I agree that Spiller should be our premier back, but it’s not like there’s a Steven Jackson or Matt Forte out there to replace Fred with to back up Spiller. There’s not even a Peyton Hillis to replace him with. Do you really think Tashard Choice is a better running back then Fred Jackson, and we can just fill the position with someone off the street? Keep in mind Running Backs don’t play every down of a game any more, this isn’t the 90s where Emmitt, Thurman and Barry get every touch for their team. Obviously I think Spiller should get 60~75% of the touches, but I think Fred should get the other 25~40%, not Tashard. Tashard’s a perfectly capable back up, I just don’t think he’s starter material (and there’s really no one out there to replace Fred with that is starter material).

    As far as being a leader and a competitor go, no NFL player is ever going to ask for less reps (and if they do, that’s when you cut them for not having mental toughness). Every NFL player has to believe in their own ability to get the job done. It’s up to the coaching staff to recognize when a player is no longer cut out to handle the workload, and who is going to get the job done in their place. Something that Gailey clearly wasn’t good at. I think Gailey may have been delusion, honestly. There was the press conference after the Indy game (I think?), and he was asked if he had thought they’d be 4-7 after 11 games, and he said something like “No, I thought we’d be 11-0.” Like, I can see thinking you should have won against the Jets, Titans (and we should have won against the Titans), Colts, and thinking you have a shot at the other games, but to say you thought you’d be undefeated thought 11 games after coming off a 6-10 year?

    Lastly, none of the injuries Fred has sustained are physically going to make him worse. They might affect his confidence (and you’re correct in wanting to question whether or not they have), but they aren’t going to affect his physical capabilities.

    Fred’s abilities are on the downswing, just not enough to cut him outright.

    One last thing, if you love writing, keep at it. Please don’t let my criticism come across as “Please Don’t Ever Write Again” but rather “Please Work To Get Better At Writing.”

  • freak

    The first RB taken was in the second round, which means no team out there was looking for RBs. Besides, I think most teams would rather take an unproven rookie RB than any RB over 30 (besides maybe Frank Gore).

  • S. Yost

    I totally agree. It doesn’t mean that teams won’t be looking for a decent back-up, which is what Freddy has become. Every year we hear how a starter has gone down and the team is now looking for a fill-in. I believe Freddy could be just that type of player.

  • freak

    I think Fred is more the Change of Pace back, as opposed to a pure backup (like Tashard is, last year Spiller was the change of pace back, which he clearly shouldn’t be). Plus, Marrone has said he wants to run a lot of 2 WR, 2 RB, 1 TE sets, so… I’d guess there’s going to be a lot of Fred and CJ on the field at the same time this year.

  • Rich Quodomine

    I think this article asks a legitimate question, but it asks a year too early. if Fred can’t adjust to the Marrone/Hackett system, then move him on. However, he should have the privilege of backing up Spiller in the new offense and seeing what he can do. Last year, he had the shoulder injury, and let’s face it, was any pair of RBs more poorly used than the Bills? I don’t think evaluating his current worth on last year’s team is fair.

    Now, if he struggles again this year as the #2 to CJ’s #1, then… different story. Maybe he won’t recover from the shoulder injury, maybe he’s fumble prone again when hit on the shoulder, maybe he can’t adjust to the new offense. However, it sends the wrong message to cut him now after he endured every poor decision the coaching staffs have made over the past half-decade only to come into building what could be a bright future, and then get cut. Disrespecting veteran players was a hallmark of the Donahoe years (Eric Moulds, Ruben Brown, particularly) and it shouldn’t be now. Let’s see where this goes this year, new regime, hopefully more aggressive and intelligent scheming on both sides of the ball, and a new attitude. If those things breathe life into his game, great. If not, next year, yes, we talk about moving on.

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