Up until this season Fred Jackson was a complementary back, but with the opportunity afforded him at the start of the season Marshawn Lynch's understudy has taken the ball and run with it, a long way. So far in fact that his two-game yardage totals to start the 2009 season rival three of the best all-purpose yardage starts for a running back in team history.
Through two games Jackson has 337 all-purpose yards, which includes 220 yards rushing, 108 yards receiving and a nine-yard kick return. He's the team's leading rusher and receiver. Granted it's just two games, but only two other running backs in team history have done better after the first two weeks of a season.
Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas.
Thomas holds the all-purpose yardage mark for the most prolific two-game start to a season in team annals. In 1991 Thomas opened the season with a 268-yard day (165 rushing, 103 receiving) in a 35-31 win over Miami. That was followed by a 142-total yard performance in a 52-34 pounding of Pittsburgh. The two week total was 410 yards with Thomas earning NFL MVP honors that season.
O.J. Simpson wasn't nearly the two-way threat that Thomas and Jackson are, but he was every bit as productive when it came to putting up yards. Simpson has the second and third best two game all-purpose yardage totals to start a season.
In 1975, Simpson followed up a 178 total yardage day in a season opening win against the Jets (42-14) with a 227-yard rushing performance at Pittsburgh in a 30-21 victory for a two week total of 405 yards. Simpson was named to his fourth straight Pro Bowl that season and was named 1st team All-Pro as he put up over 2,200 total yards of offense and 23 total touchdowns that year.
Simpson's MVP season of 1973 wasn't far behind as his total yardage after two games that season was 353 yards after a 250-yard rushing day at New England in Week 1 followed by a 103-yard rushing day at San Diego the following week. As most know, Simpson eclipsed the 2,000-yard plateau that season in just 14 games (2,003).
But what does it mean to Jackson that his yardage total ranks right behind Buffalo's Hall of Fame ball carriers?
"It's definitely an accomplishment just to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys," said the humble Jackson. "It's a sign of what our offensive line is doing. (Offensive coordinator) Alex (Van Pelt) is doing some great play calling and getting the ball in my hands when he can. You've got guys that are just making plays for us."
Jackson isn't wrong. Van Pelt has developed a good balance for Buffalo's offense through the first two weeks and the young offensive line has fared well in the screen game and in creating holes for Jackson. The two outside receivers have also helped in forcing defenses to respect the big play threat that both Lee Evans and Terrell Owens can provide. But even they see what Jackson is doing as special.
"He just keeps running and keeps playing and he's just never down," said Evans. "He's done a tremendous job. He's carried the load for us."
"I don't know how you describe Freddy," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He can do just about anything. He's a terrific athlete he can return the ball, he catches the ball extremely well, runs hard, a slasher in there, very tough to get down on the ground. Just a terrific football player"
"Fred was a horse," said Van Pelt in reference to his 197-total yard performance this past Sunday.
As much as Jackson has tried to deflect credit, he doesn't deny that being productive is a goal any self-respecting back strives to achieve.
"You want to be able to make plays," he said. "Obviously, we all want to go out and compete and do great things, but it's a team sport and without those guys I wouldn't be able to do it. It's still early and we have a long way to go and that's just how I'm trying to look at it right now. We've only played two games and have 14 to go."
Jackson also realizes that his number of opportunities won't be guaranteed beyond the Week 3 game against New Orleans. That's because the day after Sunday's game Marshawn Lynch will have completed his league-imposed three game suspension.
For now though, Jackson is pleased with what he's been able to provide for Buffalo's offense and intends to make the most of what could be his last start as the team's feature back on Sunday.
"I'm definitely happy," he said. "If we could've got that win in Week 1, that's the only thing I'd change about it. I'm happy with what I'm doing. I want to keep building on it and try to get better and in another week we get a great weapon that comes back to our offense."
Best two-game all-purpose yardage starts to a season in Bills history1. Thurman Thomas (1991) – 410 total yards
2. O.J. Simpson (1975) – 405 total yards
3. O.J. Simpson (1973) – 353 total yards
4. Fred Jackson (2009) – 337 total yards