Buffalo Bills Breakout Performances of 2012: Running Back C.J. Spiller

Robert QuinnCorrespondent IMay 9, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24:  C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills runs against the Denver Broncos at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Spiller had his first 100 yard rushing game in the NFL. Buffalo won 40-14.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

In the second installment of my “Predicting the Bills’ Breakout Players of 2012″ series, I’ll take a look at third-year running back C.J. Spiller out of Clemson.

Since being selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, it hasn’t been easy for Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller. Bills fans were scratching their heads when the pick was made, as the team already had two solid tailbacks in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.

However, that didn’t stop the brass at One Bills Drive from selecting the electrifying playmaker out of Clemson.

The Bills traded Lynch to the Seattle Seahawks soon after, with hopes of Spiller getting more touches, but he was a non-factor in his rookie campaign, carrying the ball just 74 times for 283 yards with no scores while adding 24 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield.

The trend continued again last season, as starter Fred Jackson was leading the league in rushing until he suffered a season-ending injury against the Miami Dolphins. Spiller took the opportunity and ran with it, ending the season with 561 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, while catching 39 passes for 269 yards and two more touchdowns.

With the Bills extending Fred Jackson to a two-year, $9 million deal earlier this week, it’s clear that Jackson will be the opening-day starter, but that doesn’t mean that Spiller won’t have a breakout season. 

The Bills tried utilizing Spiller to the best of their abilities last year, giving him reps at wide receiver and return duties in addition to his running back role.

Chan Gailey admitted that he needs to work on splitting the carries, telling ESPN’s AFC East Blogger, James Walker:

“There is only one football, and you got several guys who can make plays,” Gailey said. “Everybody is not going to be happy. That’s part of it. So, you do the best you can to try to use C.J. and Fred in different ways to get them the ball, because they’re capable of making big plays when they have the ball in their hands.”

Spiller’s and Jackson’s running styles complement each other perfectly, with Jackson being the “between the tackles” runner, while Spiller has the speed to outrun defenders. While Spiller won’t be getting a boatload of carries this year, a 500-700 yard season isn’t out of the question.