COMMENTARY | First-year Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said during training camp that running back C.J. Spiller will be fed the ball "until he throws up" this season. With three games under his belt, Spiller is yet to lose his lunch -- and he's also yet to find the end zone.
To date, Spiller has 43 carries for 153 yards, stats greatly boosted by a 103-yard effort -- a Bills victory -- in Week 2. In other words, as Spiller goes, so too do the Bills (1-2).
In the two Bills losses, Spiller has a combined average of 1.9 yards per carry -- a far cry from the 2012 season in which he averaged six yards per carry, en route to the Pro Bowl.
Part of the problem could be play-calling. Hackett has been relatively conservative, running frequently -- and therefore, predictably -- on first- and second-down situations, likely in an effort to keep it simple for rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel.
What's more, Spiller removed himself early in the third quarter during a Week 3 loss to the New York Jets, after awkwardly twisting his knee in the first half. Still, the explosive runner was hardly himself before heading to the locker room, collecting just nine yards on 10 carries, at least one of which occurred after the injury.
"Starting that second half, I wanted to try and give it a go and see how it feels," Spiller said Monday. "The biggest thing was trying to keep it loose. I went out there and right before, I told Fred [Jackson], 'If I don't look like myself, come get me out of the game.' I just felt like I couldn't get power, that explosiveness off my leg. Ultimately, I just came out of the game because, to me, I'm not going to put my team in jeopardy of hurting them and also I have to protect myself. The best thing for me to do is to swallow my pride at that moment and let my other guys go in there for me."
In Spiller's place against the Jets was Jackson, who ran the ball 13 times for 67 yards, 59 of which came on one carry.Jackson, who was the team's featured running back to open the 2012 season, could see an increased role if Spiller's slow start evolves into a long-term problem. The 32-year-old Jackson has 32 carries for a team-leading 169 yards and one touchdown in 2013.
Charles Roberts covers the NFL's Buffalo Bills and the University at Buffalo football program. His work has appeared in several local and national publications. Follow him on Twitter: @cHartleyRoberts.
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