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Spiller anxious to get back on track

Posted Nov 13, 2013

Dynamic Bills RB C.J. Spiller is eager to return to form this weekend against the Jets.

The first matchup with the Jets was anything but noteworthy in Week 3. C.J. Spiller, who ripped the Jets for 194 and 131 all-purpose yards in two meetings in 2012, was held to 10 total yards on 10 touches in the first meeting this season. One week later Spiller sustained a high ankle sprain and his season has proven to be far from what he anticipated. He admits frustration has crept in, but not because of how the season has panned out for him personally.

“I’m just frustrated that we’re on a three game losing streak,” said Spiller. “I’m not frustrated about the amount I’ve touched the ball. I’m just sick of the losing.”

Coming off an eight-carry, 23-yard rushing performance last week against the Steelers, Spiller knows the only time he was held to fewer yards when he was healthy was against the Jets when he rushed 10 times for nine yards. Now as he and his teammates prepare for the rematch with New York he’s mindful of taking an alternate approach.

“You just have to take what they give you,” said Spiller. “I think they game planned last time we played them where they wanted me to bounce a lot of stuff (outside). I’m going to do a good job of going back and studying that game and see what they did to try to do a great job of containing me and see what I can do differently.”

 Spiller only saw 19 snaps in Week 3 as Fred Jackson proved to be more productive that week rushing for 72 yards on seven carries to average better than 10 yards per rush.

After Spiller got 22 snaps last week against the Steelers, outside observers openly questioned his playing time. Head coach Doug Marrone addressed those questions.

“To answer the question about C.J. the situation is this,” he said. “We’re eighth in rushing, we’re the only team in football with two running backs with over 500 yards. Both of those players are playing well so when both of those guys are in there I view them as both number ones for us. I’ve always said from the beginning when I had the job that I like two different backs and two different styles and that’s what we have in those two players.

“If someone shows a hot hand don’t get me wrong I would keep him in there going. But until someone gets extremely hot I’m going to keep using both of those players because they really help us. Where we are right now can we be better? Absolutely. We’re averaging 140 yards a game and both those players are very good players for us and we’re fortunate enough to have them.”

One might be surprised to know that Spiller has one more carry (110) after 10 games this season than he did in 2012 (109). His average yards per carry this season is a very respectable 4.6, despite playing at least three games with a bum ankle. Last year it was 6.6 through 10 games.

For Marrone it’s about eliminating the negative runs as much as it is getting the game breaking carries from Spiller.

“Consistency is important. That’s what we’re looking for, and C.J. is looking for that too,” said Marrone. “We just need to continue to keep working with him on that and putting in schemes and situations that can help him.” 

Those situations could prove hard to find against a Jets run front that now ranks number one in the league allowing just under 74 rushing yards a game. Finding yards in the pass game could be an alternative, especially knowing that Robert Woods is out and Stevie Johnson is iffy for Sunday’s game.

Spiller was used as a wide receiver when injuries ravaged the receiver position early in the 2011 season. He maintains he lowered his expectations about his involvement in the pass game when the team drafted a pair of receivers early this past spring.

“I never really came into the season with high expectations of being highly involved in the pass game because I knew we had a lot of playmakers at the wide receiver position so I probably knew that role would diminish a little bit,” he said. “I just try to be in the right spots on the play and if the quarterback throws it to me I make sure I try to catch it.”

Spiller has 19 receptions through 10 games this season for an average of 4.5 yards a catch. Last season through 10 games he had 31 receptions and averaged almost 11 yards a catch (10.8). Five of those 31 receptions in 2012 went for 25 yards or more. This season he has just one catch of 25-yards plus.

Knowing he hasn’t made the impact he hoped he would for his team this season has been hard on Spiller, but he said he’s moved on. He knows dwelling on it won’t help him in the team’s last six games. Instead Spiller is focused on having a better answer for the Jets run defense.

“I can’t just sit around and let it frustrate me the whole time,” Spiller said. “The Jets are going to play physical and you have to match that and if you don’t they’re going to bully you around. That’s what they pride themselves on. I think last time they did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage against us and we have to do a better job of that.”