The Buffalo Bills have been decimated by injuries in recent weeks, and many believe it's contributed to the team's three game losing streak with their inexperienced depth being thrust into big roles. Their newest loss to injury however, may leave too big a hole for any other player to fill.
At a time when Buffalo's offense is desperately looking for a spark they'll have to do it without their main sparkplug. Fred Jackson's right leg injury has turned out to be worse than initially believed.
"Fred's not good. I know he'll miss this one and then we'll have to decide what happens from there," said head coach Chan Gailey.
When asked if Jackson would be back before the end of the season Gailey said he did not know the answer to that question yet.
Jackson was injured in last Sunday's game with a lower right leg injury, but after the game Gailey said x-rays were negative. Obviously subsequent examinations early this week revealed something that the initial x-rays missed.
For the Bills offense, Jackson has been the chief playmaker for Buffalo's offense all season. Of the 60 big plays turned in by the offense this season Jackson is responsible for half of them with 23 of the team's 32 rushes of 10 yards or more and eight of the 28 pass plays of 20 yards or more.
"Obviously it's a huge loss for him not to be on the field with us," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "You know if he could be on the field if he would. So we have to have the next guy step up. That'll be C.J., and we expect big things out of C.J.. We expect him to get in there and make big plays, and we'll see how it goes. he's going to get a chance."
Jackson represents 40 percent of the team's total net yards on offense. Second in the league in yards from scrimmage (1,356) and third in the league in rushing (914) Jackson is a seemingly irreplaceable component of the Bills attack.
"Those are blue whale shoes to fill," said C.J. Spiller. "He's one of the best doing it in the league right now."
Spiller will serve as Jackson's primary replacement. The former first-round pick had been stuck in a complementary role at running back and receiver with Jackson tearing up the league the first half of the season. Now he will be entrusted with carrying the load on the ground as he becomes the team's feature back.
"I know I'm ready," said Spiller. "The season is not over. We lost a great player, but the season is not over. I've got to elevate my game to a level where Fred was at."
Spiller is tied with Jackson for the team lead in yards per carry average with a mark of 5.5, but Jackson has carried the ball 149 more times than Spiller, who has almost as many receptions (15) as he does carries this season (21).
The second-year back only had two carries in last week's game after Jackson left with the leg injury. Both of those carries came in goal-to-go situations, with Spiller gaining a yard on 1st-and-goal from the two while being stopped for no gain on 2nd-and-goal from the one.
Though Spiller blamed only himself for failing to get in the end zone on his two chances in close, head coach Chan Gailey saw it differently.
"If we get everybody blocked like they're supposed to be blocked he'd have scored without a problem," said Gailey.
The hope moving forward is that Spiller can capably pick up the slack and turn in some of the big plays that made him a number one pick coming out of Clemson.
"When your opportunity comes you just do your best to make the most of it," said Spiller. "I'll be prepared."