BY DAN BEGNOCHE
And though Buffalo would never admit that having an injured Fred Jackson on the sideline simplifies the unsolved equation that is the Bills' backfield, that could very well be the case.
First things first: Jackson is an extremely talented and driven player, a true leader for the Bills who has earned his spot every step of the way. We do not and would never celebrate the injury of a player, nor would we ever wish harm upon any particular player of any team. (photo: Matt Britt, Flickr)
With that said, Jackson's absence this week due to the concussion he received against the New England Patriots puts fellow running back C.J. Spiller alone at the top of the depth chart. It also curtails questions that started to arise after Sunday's loss regarding a potential increase in Spiller's playing time over Jackson.
The questions are more than valid. Spiller is averaging 7.3 yards per carry, tops among starting backs. Also, he's accumulated seven 20-plus-yard runs, good enough for second best in the league behind Adrian Peterson. Jackson has been solid as well, averaging 4 yards per carry.
“I think you can never give [Spiller] enough touches,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told WGR Sportsradio 550 Monday, via BuffaloBills.com. “We’ve got to continue to find ways to get him his touches and get him in space because the guy is absolutely electric and in the 13 touches he had [Sunday] made some huge plays for us.”
In those 13 touches, Spiller gained a total of 131 yards. Jackson wasn't so bad either, amassing 115 yards on 20 touches and two touchdowns, though he did lose a fumble on the goal line. In his 87 rushing attempts so far this season, Spiller has gained 330 yards more than Jackson, who only has had fewer less attempts.
Bills coach Chan Gailey was even willing to admit Monday on 550 that if Spiller continues to produce the way he has been, he'll have a tough time sitting Spiller down for Jackson.
“Could it come to that? It sure could,” Gailey said. “Last year if Fred had gotten back (from injury), he was playing at such a level that you couldn’t get C.J. on the field. If C.J. is playing at such a level you might not be able to get Fred on the field as much as you want, that may be the case. That’s the way it is in football.”
But when it came back to how the team would try to balance the two when they are both healthy and active, Gailey was much less specific.
“We don’t make that much disparity with some of those things, but there are some plays we want C.J. in there for and some that we want Fred in there for," he said.
The fact is with Jackson out for Thursday's game, a big game for Spiller may be the beginning of the end for the two-back system as Bills fans know it. Though Jackson's play has been respectable when he's been healthy, Gailey will be hard-pressed to continue the 50/50 split between the backs if Spiller keeps this pace.
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