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Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller finding rhythm

Posted Nov 1, 2012


The production hasn’t necessarily suffered, but it’s proven difficult for the Bills run game to be fire on all cylinders this season. Fred Jackson went down with a knee injury in Week 1 and C.J. Spiller followed with a shoulder injury in Week 3. Neither were 100 percent healthy for most of the first half of the season. Those issues appear to be behind the Bills now.

Buffalo’s dynamic duo is not only healthy, but Jackson and Spiller have found a balance of work that should keep both fresh while also giving each of them enough touches to make an impact.

“I think we’ve had a great plan all along, the problem was in the beginning of the year Fred goes down and then C.J. went down and there was some injury stuff,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick. “Now with them both healthy obviously those are two guys we need to get them their touches during a game. Sometimes it’s going to be handing it off, sometimes it’s going to be the screen game and sometimes empty sets in the pass game and stuff like that. That’s obviously a very important part of our offense. Now we can rely on both of them, and in the game we can do some of the stuff we set out to do all along.”

Looking at Buffalo’s league rankings when it comes to the Bills’ ground game one might find it hard to believe they’ve struggled to find a rhythm. They rank fourth in the league in rushing (150.3) and third in yards per carry average (5.3).

But up until their last game against Tennessee Jackson and Spiller each struggled to get in the flow of the game subbing in for one another every possession. The pair decided they would go two straight series each before rotating allowing each of them to get a better feel for the rhythm of the game.

The results against the Titans were very positive. Jackson and Spiller combined for 141 rushing yards on just 21 carries (6.71 avg.). They also added 14 receptions for 81 yards to account for over 220 yards of total offense.

“It worked,” said Jackson. “It’s about just finding that groove and getting into it. It’s not always going to be perfect, but as long as we both can go out there and stay fresh and continue to make plays, we’ll do what we can to make this thing work. And I think that’s what this is about—going out there and getting some production out of both of us, and making this offensive unit go.”    

Jackson and Spiller’s big play ability is undeniable. Even with injuries compromising their effectiveness through the first six games, and Jackson missing most of the first three, the pair have still accounted for almost a third of the team’s touchdowns. They’ve also provided 11 of the team’s 27 plays over 20 yards this season.

“We know for us to get where we want a lot is going to be put on both me and Fred because we’re both talented guys and we kind of present some matchup problems for teams and that opens up everything else,” said Spiller. “I’ve always said whenever you can open up the running game it opens up the passing game. We know that load is going to be put on us and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

That challenge gets considerably stiffer this week against a Houston defense that allows just 83 yards rushing per game, good for fourth best in the league. Add in the fact that the Texans average just 10 fewer rushing yards per game (140.9) than Buffalo and it’s clear the more successful ground game could mean the difference.

“They’ve got two great backs in Arian (Foster) and (Ben) Tate,” said Jackson. “It’ll be good for us. We know that they want to get their ground game started, and that’s a way to keep us off the field, and likewise. Between C.J. and I, if we can get the running game going, get some production out of us, we think we can give ourselves a good chance to do some things too.” 

Knowing how effective the Texans are at stopping the run, Bills head coach Chan Gailey may choose other ways to get his offensive catalysts the ball than by just calling for hand-offs.

“I think it changes week to week, I really do,” Gailey said of the ways in which they choose to get his backs their touches. “I think you go into each game and you’ve got a plan about how you’re going to do it and that might change every week. I think you’ve got to be fluid with that situation in order to maximize them and create problems for the defense. If you keep saying this is only the way we’re going to do it then maybe they draw a bead on that. You want to keep changing it up.”

Gailey doesn’t set out to strike a balance of opportunities. He’s more concerned with how the flow of the game determines the work. Still, through the first six games Jackson is averaging 14 touches a game while Spiller has averaged 13. 

“I always say you’re going to need two guys,” said Spiller. “It’s a long season and you want both guys healthy. I don’t get frustrated when I don’t play the whole game because I know we have another guy capable of doing great when he’s out there. We’re just trying to take care of each other.”

And if they’re successful in doing so they’ll take care of the offense in the process.