Buffalo Bills’ Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller: Can They Compare To The Thurman Thomas/Kenneth Davis Duo Of 1990?


Now that Buffalo Bill’s running back Fred Jackson received the pay day he’s deserved all along in the form of a fancy new contract extension,  he can begin focusing on football.  Freddy suffered a broken fibula last year which ended his season after week ten.  However, doctors now believe he is 100% healed and have stated that his leg is currently stronger than it was before his injury.  Great news all around.

While Jackson was having a Pro-Bowl caliber season in 2011, backup running back C.J. Spiller was patiently waiting in the wings for his chance to impress.  When Freddy went down, Spiller did not disappoint.

In 16 games, the former Clemson back rushed for 561 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He also added another 269 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air.

Fans were starting to worry that the former first-round pick was headed down “Bust Lane” after a less-than-stellar 2010 season.  By the end of 2011, though, many realized that C.J. was turning into a nice compliment to Freddy J.

Entering their second full season together as starter and backup in 2012, Jackson and Spiller have what it takes to become one of the top running back tandems in the league.  In light of this, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at another famous Bill’s duo in their second season together:  Thurman Thomas and Kenneth Davis.

In today’s pass-happy offense, I realize that it can be a little tough to compare running backs of different decades.  Nonetheless, if Jackson and Spiller can have the same EFFECT on the team as Thomas and Davis did, it would make the Bills infinitely better.

By 1990, Thurman Thomas, a 1988 second round pick of the Bills, was already a Pro Bowl player.  That year would prove to be no different as the star running back rushed for 1,297 yards in 16 games and added 11 touchdowns.  He also led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage and was the AFC’s rushing leader, falling second in the league to Detroit’s Barry Sanders.

Thurman’s efforts paid off in 1990 as the Buffalo Bills reached their first of four Super Bowl appearances.  Although the Bills would lose that game by a mere point, Thomas was outstanding.  He added 135 yards on the ground and scored one touchdown.

As good as Thurman Thomas had been that year, so too was his backup, Kenneth Davis.

A second round pick of the Green Bay Packers, Davis led the team in rushing his rookie season.  In 1988, he had several injuries which kept him out for almost half the season and signed with the Buffalo Bills at the end of it.

In his 16 games in 1990, Davis went on to rush for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns, adding another 78 yards in receptions with one touchdown.  These stats seem fairly similar to C.J. Spiller’s production last year and while they may not seem earth-shattering, they played an integral part in keeping Thurman Thomas fresh.

In the following years, Kenneth Davis only got better as the backup to one of the best running backs in the league.  He was a main component in the Bill’s famous comeback against the Houston Oilers and nearly doubled his yardage in 1991 and 1992.  Some even considered him to be starter-worthy, had he played for a different NFL team.

All of this brings us back to Spiller and Jackson.  Although Freddy is an underrated back in today’s league, before breaking his fibula, he was already on pace to probably surpass Thomas’s output in 1990 as far as rushing yards.  Through week 10, he had accounted for six rushing touchdowns and would have come close to Thomas’s 11.

With Jackson being healthy, and if coach Chan Gailey can learn to utilize the two running backs effectively, there’s no reason Freddy can’t have similar or better statistics and be as dominant as Thurman Thomas was in his second year as a duo with Kenneth Davis.

A lot of people believe Fred Jackson to be in his prime as he hasn’t played in the NFL his whole career and has less mileage than most starting running backs.  With that considered, he should have an even better year than last year.

C.J. Spiller’s numbers were actually a little better last year than Kenneth Davis’s were his second year.  What this means remains to be seen, but it isn’t crazy to think that Spiller may have a better second year (as part of that tandem) than Davis did.

With help from a better offensive line that includes this year’s second round steal, Cordy Glenn, the already elusive Fred Jackson and speedster C.J. Spiller may just be the talk of the NFL.  It seems as though they’re due for a breakout season together and 2012 would be a great year for that to happen.

Can Jackson’s and Spiller’s second year as a duo compare to Thomas’s and Davis’s?  Absolutely.  While the team may not make a Super Bowl appearance in 2012, statistically, today’s running backs may even be better than 1990’s pair.

Let’s hope so anyway.