As the 2011 regular season moves steadily toward the midway point it's becoming readily apparent that Buffalo has a tailback that's going to contend for the title of most yards from scrimmage. Fred Jackson piled up another 196 yards on Sunday in Buffalo's 31-24 win over Philadelphia with 111 yards rushing and 85 yards on six receptions.
Buffalo's offensive staff wanted to use their bigger offensive linemen to pound the Eagles smaller front into submission. From there Jackson picked his creases and exploited them.
"That's where they had been vulnerable running up inside. We felt like we would be able to go do that," said head coach Chan Gailey. "If we can give Fred a little bit of a hole he'll create something."
More often than not he did on Sunday. His 196-yard day moved him past Travis Henry and Frank Lewis to now rank ninth in team annals in yards from scrimmage with 4,465. More importantly Jackson is among the league leaders in total yards from scrimmage (712) this season ranking third in the league behind only New England's Wes Welker (813) and New Orleans' Darren Sproles (807).
It should be noted that Welker and Sproles have the added advantage of returning punts and kicks to supplement their yardage totals on offense. In 2009, Jackson made use of over 1,000 kick return yards to take the total yards from scrimmage title with 2,513.
The difference in Jackson's game in 2011 is the number of big plays he's been able to produce on offense. Through the first five games the Bills back has 16 big plays (10 yards or more) giving him better than three per game.
He had five in Sunday's win over Philadelphia on five separate possessions. The Bills scored touchdowns on three of them. The most notable was his third down screen pass that he took 49 yards to the Eagles 11-yard line.
"The first one I cracked for a 40-yard gain," said Jackson. "(Andy) Levitre did a great job of getting off his block on the back side and going out and throwing a block on a D-B for me and I was running free without getting touched and that's just a great job of blocking."
"I feel like Fred does a great job putting us in a great position," said Levitre. "It gives himself an opportunity to make big runs by setting up the linebackers so we can get on to them and get our blocks, and he's great at making cuts and getting yards so we let him do his thing."
Buffalo's offensive staff also made use of Jackson on a few shovel pass plays that went for respectable yardage.
"We were trying to let him run the ball and then there were a bunch of passes that we had where he could get the ball as well," said Gailey. "We were fortunate to be able to have those different ways where he could get the ball."
For Jackson it was his third straight game with five or more receptions, the first Bills back to do that since Larry Centers in 2001.
All 16 of Jackson's big plays for the Bills offense this season have surprisingly come on different drives. And just one big play from Jackson on a drive leads to points 75 percent of the time (12-16) with 10 going for touchdowns.
Averaging better than five yards a carry (5.3) Jackson ranks third in average yards per carry, second in rushing yards (480) and is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns with five.
Jackson has scored a touchdown in four straight games for the Bills, making it the first time that's happened for an individual rusher for Buffalo since 2005 (Willis McGahee).
He's already been called the heart and soul of the team, but the kind of production he's been turning out this season is endearing him to everyone including the fans that were chanting his name in reverence on Sunday.
"(Fred) does a great job of leading our offense," said George Wilson. "Fred helped put points on the board and helped take a lot of that pressure off of us on defense. As long as we continue to play team football we'll be a tough team to contend with."
"We're happy where we're putting ourselves, but we have a lot of work to do and a lot of season left to play," said Jackson. "As long as I can get my teammates behind me and get the fans behind me and continue to put games together like I was able to do (Sunday) I think I'm showing that I'll continue to go out and work and hopefully we can get something done."