Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jackson's role in run game to be determined


C.J. Spiller's breakout performance last season, coupled with a new offensive system, has left fellow running back Fred Jackson's role in the Buffalo Bills' offense a bit of a mystery for the upcoming year.

Heck, even his coach isn't quite sure.

Both backs have stayed healthy heading into training camp, which has been an issue in the past when the coaching staff has tried to incorporate the two into the offense as a unit. The other 'issue' is the explosiveness Spiller showed with nearly every touch last year. With productivity like that, it's hard to not use him in any possible way you can.

Coach Doug Marrone got into that conundrum a bit with the media Tuesday, though he balked on the opportunity — at least for now — to come out and explain his plan for the backfield. One thing he did make clear, however, was that both players may have to wait a bit to find out exactly what their respective roles will be.

"I think we’ve got two good running backs that are established in this league that have done well, Marrone said. "I think it’d be too soon to say exactly what that role is. And I think that’s why we have this training camp. You see them in a lot of different situations.

"I think we have a lot of things we can do with them and we’re just going to keep putting in the offense, putting in the volume. And as we get down to the end, this is what we do with the players. Really at the end, when the squad is made, we sit down with the players and we define their role for them."

Jackson, entering his seventh season, has been productive for Buffalo when he's on the field and healthy. He's averaged 4.5 yards a carry during his tenure and had a breakout season of his own going until he fractured his leg in 2011. 

Marrone was sure to note Jackson's value to the team even off the field on Tuesday, touting the vet's leadership skills not only with the running back corps but with the entire squad. 

"Fred is an outstanding pro and I think that the longer you’re in this profession and you’re at this level, there’s a great appreciation and value to that," Marrone said. "... He brings a lot of energy not just to the running back group but also to the offense and the team."

While it's hard to see a situation in that Jackson would receive an equal or greater amount of touches than the younger back, Spiller is excited to see the problems the two can incur on opposing defenses. 

Spiller is particularly intrigued with Buffalo's options out of a two-back "pony" set, telling former fullback Heath Evans on NFL Network that the dual versatility in the backfield should make for some headaches on the defensive front. 

"Me and Fred can do so many different things," Spiller said. "We both can run it, we both can catch it. He's the better protector than I am but I can also protect as well, so teams are not going to beam in and say, 'When they go pony, we know 28 is going to go out and 22 is going to stay in.'

"It makes things a whole lot (more) difficult on the defense."

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