Bills to split carries in backfield this season
More and more NFL teams are using a running back-by-committee approach these days and it appears that will be the case with the Buffalo Bills as they look to end their long playoff drought in 2012.
Before Fred Jackson fractured his fibula in November, the fifth-year back produced six 100-yard games and 31 of the Bills’ 60 big plays on offense. With Jackson sidelined, the Bills weren’t the same team (they started 5-2), but C.J. Spiller bloomed.
It wasn’t until Jackson sustained a fractured fibula in Week 11 that Spiller had the opportunity to handle a similar workload over the last six weeks of the regular season. And Spiller flourished compiling four games with over 100 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns over the team’s final five games. Come season’s end Spiller nearly matched Jackson’s yards per carry average of 5.5 with a 5.2 mark and both had six touchdowns apiece.
The Bills are committed to getting both backs on the field this season.
“I can promise you this, we will not make everybody happy,” coach Chan Gailey said. “That will not happen this year. The only thing that will make everybody happy is winning. That’s what the goal is, to come up with plans that incorporate everybody’s abilities that allow us to win. Other than that, I can’t predict what’s going to happen as far as percentages for their touches.”
Both players are expected to be on the field simultaneously more of the time in 2012. They could be lined up as a split backfield, or one may be lined up wide. Spiller has sky high expectations in 2012.
“We split with New England. We had the Giants on the ropes. We are close to being a Super Bowl team,” he said. “We have to protect the ball.”
After Buffalo’s 5-2 start generated optimism, the wheels came off as they lost seven in a row and eight of nine to finish at 6-10. But the Buffalo defense should be much better this year. In 2011, the Bills ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency last season (25th against the pass, 27th against the rush). Last season, Buffalo was 5-0 when they scored at least 30 points. They were just 1-10 in games in which they scored fewer than 30.
But the team won the Mario Williams sweepstakes, and he’ll join Kyle Williams, former first-rounder Marcell Dareus, veteran Chris Kelsay and free agent Mark Anderson along what should be AFC East’s best defensive line. Then there’s cornerback Stephen Gilmore, the team’s first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He could step into the starting lineup immediately.