Buffalo Bills: How C.J. Spiller Benefits from the New Coaching Staff
Bills fans endured another playoff-less season, their 13th in a row. All of this despite Buffalo showing a commitment to bringing in players in free agency to try and change the losing culture in Western New York.
The Bills learned that no high-priced signings can change a losing mentality around.
Spiller had a frustrating season in a different way. The third-year running back had his best season as a pro and showed the game-breaking plays that fans had in mind when the Bills drafted Spiller with the 9th pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
The former Clemson back piled up 1,244 rushing yards on only 207 carries. He tied Adrian Peterson for the best yards-per-carry average for any running back in the NFL with at least 200 attempts, finishing with six yards per rush.
Spiller also added 43 catches for 459 yards, which brought him to 1,703 all-purpose yards on the season
The problem with Spiller in 2012 was the fact that Chan Gailey limited his touches for reasons that are unknown to even the most seasoned Bills beat writers. Spiller finished eighth in rush yards but 22nd in total attempts. He also accounted for nearly a third, 31 percent to be exact, of the Bills' yards from scrimmage last season
This begs the question, why was Spiller not given the ball more if he was such a pivotal part of the offense?
A bad season and Gailey's unquestioned misuse of Spiller got the coach canned on the dreaded "Black Monday."
New Coach, New Era?
Doug Marrone was a surprising choice for head coach of the Buffalo Bills, but it lined up with the new direction that the team wanted to go in when they cleaned house.
Marrone, a former Saints offensive coordinator, most recently spent the last four years of his coaching career as the head coach of Syracuse University just a few hours down the road from Orchard Park. With the coach being offensive-minded, Bills fans are eager to see how he handles two big choices on that side of the ball: who will be the quarterback, and how will Spiller be involved?
The Bills' new head man ran a pro-style offense at Syracuse with three-year starter Ryan Nassib at quarterback, a player who broke all of Donovan McNabb's passing records at the school. He also ran an offense around Colts running back Delone Carter while he was with the Orange up until 2010.
What made Marrone an enticing candidate for Buffalo is the fact that he has been able to run an offense to the strengths that he has in personnel. Marrone's most recent teams were led by Nassib, while his first two seasons were dominated by a punishing run game with Carter.
The ability to change things on the fly instead of being married to a specific scheme is a reason why Marrone put Syracuse football back on the map for the first time in nearly a decade.
Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News wrote a fantastic piece this week breaking down the Syracuse offense and how he thinks Marrone will translate it to the current Buffalo squad.
In the article he discusses how fans can expect to see a similar style of offense that Buffalo has been running but with a more up-tempo feel.
Both Marrone and new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett come from West Coast offense backgrounds, which relies on quick throws and decisions by the quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick was asked to do a bunch of this under Gailey, but teams eventually caught on to the quick slants and wide receiver screens that Buffalo ran incessantly.
Whether Fitzpatrick remains the starter in Buffalo is still a mystery, especially with Nassib being logically linked to the Bills in the upcoming draft.
Whoever the Bills quarterback is, there will be an expectation to hand the ball off to No. 28 more often than it was given to him this past season.
Spiller learned the patience to match with his effortless speed during his third season. If Marrone plays to the team's strengths as expected, then the back could reach eye-popping numbers in his fourth year.
Marrone was an offensive lineman as a player and coached the line for the New York Jets before he ventured over to New Orleans. His blocking scheme was a huge reason for the success that Curtis Martin had late in his career. While the Saints chose to throw the ball much more during Marrone's time there, his running game was still very effective with a zone-blocking scheme.
Assuming Andy Levitre stays with Buffalo instead of searching for greener pastures elsewhere, a young but experienced Bills line has the chance to flourish under Marrone. His knowledge of how to break down a defense starting in the trenches and the line's familiarity with a zone-blocking scheme could help them take Spiller's game to the next level.
Will Spiller lead the NFL in rushing yards in 2013?
Syracuse's two top backs this season, Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, combined for 2,000 rushing yards behind the Orange line. Gulley, who is a Spiller-like back, also totaled 33 catches on the year, which gives us a glimpse into how Marrone will use his star running back as dual threat.
The Bills new coach has only had an offense in Orchard Park for just under three weeks, but one can speculate that he already knows what a special talent he has in his backfield.
Marrone has shown the tendency to adapt as things are dealt to him, and because of that, nothing less than a breakout season will expected out of Spiller.
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