With C.J. Spiller anything but a sure thing for Thursday night's game veteran tailback Tashard Choice stands a good chance of being pressed into action against the Browns. Fred Jackson is expected to play, but his measure of effectiveness won't be known until game time. Choice might be a reserve option now, but come game time there's a possibility that he has a featured role. As far as the Bills are concerned, Choice is more than capable.
"He wouldn't be on this team if we didn't feel that way about Tashard Choice," head coach Doug Marrone said flatly.
"We have all the confidence in the world that he can go in there and get the job done," said Spiller. "He's been in that position before when it was me and him last year. So we're not worried about having a let off or a letdown. Obviously we want both me and Fred out there, but when Tashard Choice's number is called we have the confidence that he'll go in and get the job done."
Spiller is referring to the job Choice did in Cleveland last season when he stepped in for an injured Fred Jackson, who suffered a knee injury in the season opener and still wasn't ready ito play in Week 3. It proved to be his most extensive work in 2012 because C.J. Spiller suffered a shoulder injury in the first half and didn't return. Choice was entrusted with helping the Bills maintain their seven-point halftime lead all by himself in Buffalo's offensive backfield.
Thirteen of his 20 carries for the game came in the second half against the Browns. Choice rushed for 61 yards over the final two quarters averaging just under 4.7 yards per carry as Buffalo won by 10 (24-14).
"Them guys I remember last year they were a really fast defense, really physical and they were making a lot of plays," Choice said. "My mind frame is to go in there and continue to mash and gash for us. I don't want there to be a let off. If I'm in the game I want to make sure I continue to make plays. Last week I left one out there. I slipped and I'm still (ticked) about it. I've got to have it. I've got to do better."
It's never easy for a reserve back to get into the flow of a game, especially where their carries in live regular season action are few and far between. Choice is glad he got some carries in last week's win over Baltimore feeling it will have him sharp for Thursday night should he be pressed into service.
"In practice we rotate all three of us in practice, but it's always different when you're in the game," he said. "I knew going into the game (last week) I was going to get a little more action during that game so I wanted to make sure I was prepared for that. It's always different in the game and getting that game speed back down running the ball. So it takes a couple of reps and once you're in there you get a feel because the offense is fast paced. It's always a good thing."
Cleveland's defense is vastly underrated. They haven't allowed a touchdown in five quarters and have surrendered just a pair of touchdown passes. All the more reason to get the running game established, and Choice could be a big part of that effort Thursday night. Choice's main goal if he's in the lineup is to maintain the production of the league's second-ranked rushing attack.
"You want it to be that way," he said. "You want teams to understand that whoever is in there can make plays. That's one thing I pride myself on doing and make sure I'm out there working so when I'm in the game I'm making plays and keeping the offense rolling so whatever we do it's cool."
Choice realizes he's unlikely to know exactly what his role will be until close to game time. What he does know is his fellow backs have faith in him that he can pick up the slack when they're not able to go.
"Fred and C.J. trust me," he said. "It's hard for them guys not to compete. When it's a big game they want to be out there for their teammates and rightfully so because those guys work their tails off and I understand it. But when they see me in the game and they see me doing well they cheer me on because they know how hard I work as well. Getting that opportunity you never know, but when it happens you've got to make the most of it."