Spiller confident with role in offense

Posted Jan 1, 2014

C.J. Spiller's high ankle sprain was the main culprit in compromising what he hoped would be the best season of his career to date. But it hasn't changed his optimistic view of his role in Buffalo's offense.

C.J. Spiller was touted as the focal point of Buffalo’s offense heading into the first year under head coach Doug Marrone. But a high-ankle sprain suffered in Week 4 by the dynamic back played a large role in compromising those plans. As a result Spiller fell well short of his personal goals as well as his primary team goal, which was to reach the postseason for the first time in his four-year career. Walking out the door this week at the conclusion of the 2013 campaign Spiller is very clear on his role in Buffalo’s offense and optimistic about 2014.

“I don’t have any concerns or any doubts what my role will be,” said Spiller. “I think we just had an obstacle in the road when I got injured in Week 4. It kind of hindered some of the things that we were able to do with me. When you keep coming in and out of games, it’s hard to really get a guy going like that.”

The first two weeks of the season Spiller was on the field for 59 percent of the plays in both games (37, 44 plays). After that he did not see more than 40 percent of the snaps in a game until Week 16 against Miami (37 plays – 47%) and the season finale at New England (33 plays – 48%).

Despite having an injury that sometimes takes four to six weeks of rest to heal, Spiller only missed one game in Week 8 at New Orleans. Still, it was clear he wasn’t himself most notably in games at Miami in Week 7 when he re-aggravated the injury and Week 10 at Pittsburgh. 

Down the stretch his most productive games came in Week 13 against Atlanta (149 yards rushing) and last week’s season finale (105 yards rushing) at New England, and Buffalo finished the season second in the league in rushing. But Spiller fell well short of his own personal goals for 2013.

“Fifteen-hundred yards, 15 TDs and six yards a carry,” Spiller said succinctly of the marks he set for himself for the season. “I wouldn’t say it’s disappointing because I’ll always have high expectations and I’m always going to shoot for the moon because in case I miss the moon I can fall on the stars. The last one was the Super Bowl and we didn’t get it. That’s the disappointing part; this is my fourth year here and my fourth time going home early.”

Bills head coach Doug Marrone indicated that the changes in their run game scheme from that of the club’s previous offensive system required some measure of adjustment on Spiller’s part. What has Marrone encouraged is the uptick in production and consistency from Spiller at the end of the season.

“We’ve been working on a couple of things,” said head coach Doug Marrone. “In the situations that we ran him this year it was different than the situations in which he was running the year before. I think the injury did play a factor in some of that production. But I did see him improve at the end of the year.

“I think he was able to in the season finale stick it up in there and break it and become more physical. Whether that was because of the injury and feeling much better, but there are signs of him having the ability to get to those numbers.”

Spiller admitted that the new scheme was an adjustment he needed time to get accustomed to executing at game speed.

“When you get a new system to try to get accustomed to it as quickly as you have to, I thought I did a pretty good job of that,” he said. “I know from the outside you guys would probably say I’m down because of the numbers. I thought (my role) was great. I was able to carry the ball and we did different things to try to involve me in the passing game.”

Spiller said he didn’t really feel like himself until late in the season with his trademark burst and ‘cut on a dime’ elusiveness due to the ankle injury that he tried to play through as the season unfolded. Nevertheless he still led the team in rushing with 927 yards and had a 4.6 yards per carry average.

“All I can do is focus on getting my healthy ready and come back next year and be ready to go,” he said. “I know Coach Hackett and Coach Wheatley do a great job of communicating, telling me what I need to do and what I need to work on and I’m definitely looking forward to it. Now I finally get some rest and let it heal as much as it can and then come back next year and really try to explode.”