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Dec 1, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (22) breaks a tackle by Atlanta Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora (50) during the first half at the Rogers Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills' Running Backs Need To Step Into A Bigger Role

The Buffalo Bills seem to be moving in the right direction in several places that need the work. However, one of the areas of their game that most seem to think the Bills need very little work is in the running back position.

The Bills currently boast the one-two punch of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. The combination of Spiller and Jackson gives the Bills a dual threat when handing the ball off and most believe they are one of the top tandems in the league.

The time has been split pretty much down the middle between the two with neither stepping up and taking control, or being given, the number one title.

For the Bills to succeed they need either Spiller or Jackson to grab that spotlight and to start performing like a top running back in the NFL.

In order to understand how far behind the Bills’ running backs are first you have to look at some of the league’s top performers.

LeSean McCoy lead the league last year with 1,607 yards for the Philadelphia Eagles. Adrian Peterson had just under 20 attempts a game for the Minnesota Vikings. Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch lead the league with 12 rushing touchdowns for the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks respectively. These are the elite, the big boys.

Both Jackson and Spiller ranked in the middle of the pack in total rushing yards. Jackson finished the season in 16th with 890 yards on the ground. While Spiller finished directly above him in the number-15 spot with 933 rushing yards.

Peterson came in at number two in the NFL with 19.9 rush attempts a game, thats almost two short of Doug Martin’s league leading 21.2 rushing attempts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Spiller averaged 13.5 and Jackson averages 12. 9 dropping them to 26th and 31st respectively.

Finally, you have to put points up on the board in order to be seen as the best. This is the lone area where

there was some separation between the Bills’ two backs. Jackson scored nine touchdowns on the ground while Spiller only scored two touchdowns on the ground.

Outside of comparative stats the two’s singular stats are just as unimpressive. Both Jackson and Spiller were unable to crack the scoreboard on the ground during eight games last season. Only Jackson was able to score multiple rushing touchdowns during a game, and he only did so once. Jackson was able to eclipse the 100-rushing yards mark only once last season, while Spiller did it four times.

Needless to say these aren’t quite the statistics of running backs that you would throw into the same category as the league’s elite.

If one were to step up and take control of the Bills’ rushing game these stats would like begin to sway and thrust one into the limelight. Who that is, and if it happens all depends on the play of the two and the Bills’ management of course. But if it doesn’t happen we may have to watch another season of thinking we can get more from the Bills’ running game.

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Tags: Buffalo Bills C.J. Spiller Fred Jackson

  • christian runfola

    Your basis of comparison between the league’s “elite” runners and the Bills 1-2 punch seems a little flawed.
    You mentioned Mccoys yds…our boys combined rushed for more yds than McCoy did. You mentioned number of carries…our boys combined averaged more touches…so how can you compare them to a back who is clearly it’s teams number 1 option. Both backs are number 1 talents that demand touches.
    The problem is with two dynamic and competetive backs that neither can get those touches needed to be statistically elite. As a stand alone back, either one projects out as top 10 (maybe even top 5) back, so I am not sure what the point to this blog is. Are you lobbying for the Bills to just pick one and run with him as the feature back? That makes more sense than to ask for two guys who touch the ball 50/50 to each produce the same as a back who gets 80-100% of his teams carries.

  • Greg Geddes

    Not to mention Spiller was hurt for pretty much the whole year, also the Bills had one of the worst Offensive Lines in the league.

  • Zachary Alexander

    I don’t think the issue is which back will become number 1; it’s apparent that once Freddy is gone Spiller will hold that role. However, Christina makes a good point that because Jackson/Spiller share carries they will not be able to have the numbers McCoy has.

    I think the Bills are not looking for that one back anymore, the league has shown that the 3 down back is a dying breed. Teams have to be able to mix up the backfield to keep defenses on their heels. So with the addition of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon Buffalo now has the depth and skill sets necessary to maintain a consistent running attack, something we could not do last year. Dixon and Jackson are multi-talented backs with power while Spiller & Bryce Brown are speedy and elusive. Add a reinforced line and you have the potential for the best running game in the NFL.