Proving he deserved a spot on the team with an impressive first three seasons, RB Fred Jackson will have the chance to prove he deserves more playing time this year. The Bills' coaching staff has spent a lot of time this offseason coming up with ways to make him a larger part of the offense. More specifically, Jackson and the Bills' staff have been making an effort to expand his role in the passing game heading into training camp.
But when the regular season rolls around will Fred Jackson actually get more touches this season?
The answer is most likely yes.
"(Last season) just proved that I could compete at this level," Jackson said. "I've had some success at every level that I've been in, and to come in last year and have some success like I did, it just let me know that I could compete here and that I belong here."
Veteran RB Marshawn Lynch has gotten the bulk of carries in the running game each of the last two years, and that will likely continue this season. But Jackson's greater involvement as a runner and a receiver will be very beneficial to the team.
In order for Jackson and the other running backs to get touches, it will be necessary for Buffalo's offense to be more successful in sustaining drives. The Bills ranked 26th in the league last year in total offensive plays, with 956. This number must increase in order to give the running backs enough opportunities to make those plays.
"Hopefully (Jackson) will get more touches," said head coach Dick Jauron. "Hopefully we'll be more consistent on that side of the ball and score more, keep the ball longer, to give him more opportunities, but he definitely has those skills as does Marshawn. Both are very good receivers."
Jackson had been split out wide as a receiver sporadically in the past few seasons, but never to the extent that he was during the offseason OTAs and minicamp workouts.
Running backs coach Eric Studesville has also been working closely with Jackson this spring, and continues to see him advance at his position. In addition to Lynch, Studesville sees great potential for Jackson this year.
"I'd like to see an ever-increasing role with Fred. He's proven that he's dependable and productive in everything that we've asked him to do," said Studesville. "So we're going to do it, get him more touches and find more ways to get him in the game. He catches the ball so well, is solid in protection and plays so hard."
"Coach (Studesville) spends a lot of time with me after practice, and we ran some routes after practice as well," Jackson said. "I'm definitely getting the work in. I talked to (wide receivers coach Tyke) Tolbert a little bit and he's given me some of the breakdowns and some of the hot routes (to run against a blitz), too, so I'm definitely getting the work in."
Another key element for success will be to perfect his chemistry with QB Trent Edwards. Edwards needs to trust that Jackson will be able to adapt to different plays, as well as take on a greater amount of route responsibility. The more comfortable Edwards can get with Jackson, the more likely Jackson will see increased touches.
"He (Edwards) was the guy I was out here working with just trying to get some of the timing down," said Jackson. "I want to make sure he's on the same page I am when I'm running the routes. We're putting in the work and hopefully we get things perfected."
Jackson doesn't hold back when it comes to practicing and perfecting. His experience and desire to improve have given him a solid formula for success in previous seasons, and in the spring. Jackson plans to continue to sharpen his game at training camp.
"We're getting the work in now so if it comes to that in the season at some point and I'm out there, I'll have a feel for it and I know what we're doing," Jackson said. "I'm doing all this work now to perfect my trade."