Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bills' run formations good for Fred, bad for C.J.


The Buffalo Bills' ground game may be as efficient on paper as last season, but it certainly isn't turning heads and frustrating defenses like a year ago.

Despite being ranked in the top five in yards per game, Buffalo's rushing attack has struggled to break off the big gains that carried the offense in 2012.

Much of that can be tied to the play of C.J. Spiller, who has lacked the elusive moxie that put him atop of the league in yards-per-carry average a year ago.

Spiller has averaged around 3.5 yards per carry this season, and he has yet to find the end zone through three games. While that can be attributed to defenses focusing their efforts on his every appearance in the backfield, his three fumbles and lack of production — despite an increase in carries — is beginning to paint a glum picture.

"I think we’ve just got to keep plugging at it," fellow running back Fred Jackson told reporters Wednesday. "We’re not going to get 18-20 yard chunks. We have to be content with three, four yard carries. If we can do that it puts us ahead in the downs and that gives us an opportunity to make some plays and stay on the football field."

Jackson has proven capable in the Bills' revamped run game. The veteran has averaged more than five yards a carry on less attempts than his young counterpart, picking up 11 first downs and, most importantly, holding on to the football along the way. 

Jackson's success comes mainly due to the team's lack of run plays out of the spread formation. With the team set up in a more traditional run formation, Jackson has thrived between the tackles, handily outrunning Spiller between the tackles. 

Center Eric Wood believes that having those traditional formations instilled in the run game keeps the defense honest and will pay dividends when the right match-up presents itself.

"I think spread formations are great for running the ball, but you have to have some kind of balance and that’s where we kind of get in trouble in the past," Wood said. "When teams would play regular personnel against our sub packages we didn’t really have an answer. That’s where this year we’re trying to be more consistent with our base runs so when a team does that we have an answer."

The Bills' offensive line gets set for yet another tough test up front Sunday, as it takes on the league's fourth-ranked run defense of the Baltimore Ravens.

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