With three consecutive losses and their season spiraling out of control, the Buffalo Bills situation went from bad to worse with running back Fred Jackson being placed on injured reserve with a fracture to his fibula bone in his right leg.
Jackson’s injury is a major blow to a Buffalo squad that unexpectedly started the season with three straight wins and at one point seemed on its way to earning at least an AFC wildcard berth. Those playoff hopes now seem faint at best with Jackson out for the season and the team facing a must win game this week on the road against the New York Jets.
With 934 rushing yards and 442 yards receiving, Jackson was second in the league in total yards from scrimmage and enjoying the finest year of his career at age 30. His receiving yardage from this season surpassed a career-high of 371 set in 2009 and he was on pace to shatter his previous high of 1,062 rushing yards, also set in 2009.
Buffalo will turn to a combination of second year player C.J. Spiller, the ninth pick in the 2010 draft, rookie 5th round pick Johnny White and Tashard Choice, claimed off waivers yesterday from Washington, to try to ignite a Bills offense that has struggled over the past three weeks. The Bills managed just 26 total points in losses to the Jets, Cowboys and Dolphins.
Looking at the Bills offense in general, the unit figures to struggle mightily with defenses no longer having to focus their attention on stopping Jackson in the running game or out of the backfield as a receiving threat. Simply put, none of their other options out of the backfield come close to matching Jackson’s skill level in either area.
Even with Jackson, the Bills offense has struggled in recent weeks due to the loss of Eric Woods, their best offensive lineman, and a number of injuries along the offensive line and at wide receiver. It also seems clear that the league’s defenses have caught on to head coach Chan Gailey’s spread offense that rarely takes shots down the field due to the team’s lack of speed at wide receiver.
Spiller is clearly the most intriguing option behind Jackson but he has struggled to meet the expectations of being the ninth pick in the 2010 draft, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry as a rookie and failing to provide big plays in the passing game. In addition, given his diminutive size, Spiller is ill equipped to handle 15-20 touches per game.
If a player’s use is the main gauge in determining what the coaching staff thinks of them, then Spiller’s average of 3.6 touches per game compared to Jackson’s 22 is revealing. However, general manager Buddy Nix and Gailey are responsible for selecting Spiller so they figure to give him every opportunity to hold on to the starting job down the stretch. Look for White or Choice to handle the goaline chores.
White hasn’t been used much since registering eight carries on opening day and wasn’t even a workhorse back in college at North Carolina, carrying the ball 130 times in his senior season while displaying decent receiving ability there, catching 24 balls. He might grab a few carries per game but unless he shows something quickly, look for Choice to quickly ascent to backup status behind Spiller.
As for Choice, he played well during his first two years in the league, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 8.8 yards per reception in limited action, but has slumped over the past two seasons.
If I’m rolling the dice on one of these guys, Choice comes up a tad short of Spiller.
As for the Bills other skill position players, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick clearly takes as a hit as he loses his highly productive outlet option and wide receiver Steve Johnson, already struggling with just four receptions over his past two games, moves into WR3 territory. Both of these players will have trouble finding the end zone with Jackson out of the line up.