Two weeks prior to the trade of Marshawn Lynch, Ryan Fitzpatrick fully believed Fred Jackson was going to get his chance to make a bigger impact on Buffalo's offense, much like he did in 2009. And the Bills quarterback made a point of telling Jackson as much.
"He told me about two weeks ago, 'You're going to get your shot and when you do let's take advantage of it,'" recalled Jackson. "Confidence from players like that is just going to make me more confident."
That confidence will be on display Sunday against the Jaguars as Jackson will be the lead running back now that Buffalo's trio of high-caliber backs has been reduced by one with Lynch now in Seattle.
"I have (been told that I'm the starter)," said Jackson. "It's one of the things that I was told when I got here that I would be the guy that's going to be doing it. I'm excited about it, looking forward to the opportunity and hopefully we can kind of get some things turned around out here."
"Right now, he has the most experience and the most maturity," said head coach Chan Gailey. "I think C.J.'s going to play a lot and get a lot of snaps, but it's going to take both of them for us to get where we want to go."
On offense the Bills collectively appeared energized two weeks ago when Fitzpatrick was installed as the new starter at quarterback in New England. With Jackson now in line to handle the lion's share of the rushing load, it's clear that the collective faith in what Jackson is capable of runs deep in Buffalo's locker room.
"I don't think anybody believes we're going to miss a beat having Fred in there," said Lee Evans. "He did tremendous things for us last year and we all know what type of player he is."
"Freddy J (Jackson) is one of my favorite players that I've ever played with just in terms of the energy, the enthusiasm and the heart that he plays with," said Fitzpatrick. "Every single run it takes four guys to get him down and even then sometimes he's bouncing off. He's a guy that's reliable and I can count on. When somebody is blitzing I know he's going to pick him up. I know he's going to be in the right place."
Upon entering the facility at One Bills Drive Wednesday his offensive linemen were already energized knowing Jackson would be the lead back moving forward.
"I talked to all of them coming in and they said, 'Are you ready to run the ball?' And I told them, 'I'm right behind you. You tell me where you want me to go and I'll be right behind you.' I tell our offensive line to just get on somebody and I'll make you right, and that kind of gives them the confidence to go out there and do whatever they have to. I think those guys bust their butts and do whatever they can."
Jackson averaged 4.5 yards per carry behind an injury-plagued offensive line in 2009 en route to his first career 1,000-yard rushing season. Knowing the struggles that the line had last season due to an alarming lack of continuity, it's clear they appreciated Jackson's efforts in making them look good.
"A lot of times last year if we'd get the down linemen covered up he'd make the linebackers do the wrong thing a lot of the time," said Geoff Hangartner. "Even if they get a hold of him he's going to be running through tackles and he'll turn a two-yard gain into a five-yard gain. And through the course of the game those two-yard gains and five-yard gains turn into 12 and 15-yard gains come the third and fourth quarter. So we do have a lot of confidence in him and he's earned all of our trust for sure."
And being in that featured role in 2009 will have him all the more prepared for the role again entering Week 5.
"Any time you get that experience it definitely makes you more confident," he said of the starter's role. "I'm used to looking at different defenses and knowing what kinds of schemes we're going against. If you're able to go out and not think about stuff as much, you're able to just go out and play. So getting as many touches as I did on the field last year is definitely going to help me this year."
Jackson and his teammates also believe his increased role on the field will result in more overall production on offense giving them a better chance to put more points on the board and get the goose egg out of their win column.
"Everybody saw how valuable Fred was to our team and what a great job he did last year," said Fitzpatrick. "He was our team MVP on offense and that's what we're expecting from him. It's not like he has to get a couple of weeks to get going. We're expecting him to perform right away."