COMMENTARY | Six weeks into the NFL season, no team can compete with the Buffalo Bills when it comes to the amount and impact of injuries to key players. After less than half of the season, the team has already suffered injuries to three starting quarterbacks, both running backs, the number one wide receiver, and the top cornerback and safety in the secondary. As a result, it is little surprise that the team has struggled to the tune of a 2-4 record, unable to get over the hump in a series of close contests.
Even considering the injuries to the quarterbacks, the most painful injury has been the ankle injury to all-world running back C.J. Spiller, which he suffered against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. Although Spiller has not missed a game due to the injury, he has been far less productive than expected and hoped. Heading into the season, he was to be the focal point of the offense, as in training camp it was promised that he would get the ball until he threw up. Spiller has not thrown up from overuse this season. Instead, fantasy owners and Bills fans expecting an MVP-caliber season out of the running back have been sick to their stomachs.
As a result, it is time for Spiller to be benched until he is 100% healthy. This is not to be taken as a slight on Spiller, but instead an acknowledgement that he is clearly less than healthy and his performance has suffered.
For starters, Spiller has been relatively ineffective when he has been on the field. Although he has had his moments, including a 103-yard rushing performance against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2, he has struggled since the injury against the Ravens. Since then, he has not eclipsed the 100-yard mark, and through the team's first six games he has lost as many fumbles as he has touchdowns (one). Spiller's relative ineffectiveness has been especially damaging to a Bills team that has played three quarterbacks in its first six games, which does not even count the preseason injury to Kevin Kolb. For a team that needs to rely heavily on the run, having an injured running back on the field has been a huge blow.
At the same time, the Bills can somewhat afford to give Spiller time on the sideline to get healthy. Running back is probably the only position where the Bills are deep enough to give a key starter some time off without too steep of a drop off in talent. Backup Fred Jackson has been able to turn back the clock early this season with four touchdowns while splitting time with Spiller, and he has run with burst that has not been seen in a few years.
At the same time, unheralded third string running back Tashard Choice possesses underrated speed and elusiveness and has the skill set to serve Spiller's role in the offense until C.J.'s ankle is at 100%. Choice's potential was on full display against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6 with an impressive 13-yard run during his limited action.
This is not to say that C.J. Spiller is at fault for struggling to live up to the monumental hype placed on him before the season. This is not even to say that Spiller has necessarily been bad under the circumstances. However, at this point, it would be much better for the Bills to be without Spiller for a week or two and then have him at 100% for the remainder of the year than to have him at 75% in every game until the Week 12 bye. That is why, until it can be settled that Spiller is 100%, the Bills are best served with him on the bench.
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Del Pearson is a lifelong Bills fan from Upstate New York. He has been attending games since childhood and idolizes Jim Kelly. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.
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