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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.
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 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...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.” "If every guy I have on the team doesn't want to be a starter, I've got the wrong guys...I want everybody to want to be a starter. But everybody's not. There's 11 of 'em. You have to learn to handle that. Whoever it is. You have to learn to handle it."
Gailey also stated that Spiller could be an every-down back.
"He could be an every-down back. I don't see any reason he couldn't carry 20-25 if he needed to...But he’s a valuable, versatile player. He can play wideout. We’re fortunate to have two very good backs. I’m going to try to make sure we keep them fresh and wear ‘em out at the same time. Does that make sense? But you want them to be on the field doing something, running routes, creating a threat for the defense."