Buffalo Bills: Why a Hidden Problem in the Running Game Kills the Playoff Chance

Aaron YoungCorrespondent IIIMarch 22, 2011

Fred Jackson running strong for now.
Fred Jackson running strong for now.

With so much talk about the importance of the quarterback position in today’s NFL, the running back or running back committee often does not get the recognition it used to. This is because the running game has become more of a supplementary part of the offense for many organizations.

However, one can argue that in most cases, it is necessary to have an adequate running game to succeed too. Just one team made the 2010 NFL playoffs while recording single-digit rushing touchdowns. At the same time, none of the teams that fumbled the ball more often than they scored a rushing touchdown qualified for the playoffs.

This shows you the importance the running game still has in the NFL today. Therefore, here’s a breakdown of the running back situation of the Buffalo Bills

Buffalo’s running game was fairly good last season. Totaling 1720 yards on 401 attempts is not far off neither the average of total rushing yards nor the average of rush attempts in the league. The running game could have been great if they had only put more scores on the board. As pointed out, none of the teams that had more fumbles than rushing touchdowns made it to the postseason in 2010.

This was also the case with the Bills. Racking up only six rushing touchdowns versus eleven fumbles effectively ended any chance of making it to the postseason. Their record of 4-12 speaks for itself.

Fred Jackson carried the load for Buffalo. On 222 carries he totaled 927 yards. That is an average of 4.2 yards per carry. Jackson scored five of the teams eleven rushing touchdowns. On the other hand, he also fumbled five times, losing two of them.

Jackson, who just turned 30 this February, is probably getting into the last stage of his career. He is set to be a free agent in 2013, but it is unlikely that he will hold on to the starter position for that long.

When an organization’s top running back is nearing the end of his career, it is natural that the team starts looking for his replacement. The Bills drafted C.J. Spiller with the 9th pick overall in the 2010 NFL draft.

Unfortunately, Spiller did not explode onto the scene in his rookie season. Averaging only 3.8 yards per carry, he totaled 283 yards on 74 carries. He did not show much of the big play ability that he was known for during his time at Clemson University. His only score (except for on special teams) was a reception for a touchdown. He also fumbled five times, losing three of those.

However, Spiller’s greatest contributions were for Buffalo’s special team’s unit. He was the starting kick returner, and the most memorable moment of his rookie season was probably his 95 yard kick return for a touchdown against the Patriots in week 3.

If Spiller can get it going in 2011, the Bills will find themselves in a good situation. There is no doubt that Spiller has lots of talent and potential. If only he can convert that talent into production, there is no reason why Buffalo’s running game can’t excel in near future. 

Buffalo’s running game is at a stable state. As soon as they can get more touchdowns instead of fumbles out of their running game, they'll do fine. Fortunately, this allows the organization to focus their scouting on other parts of the team. The consensus is that the Bills should look to add a defensive playmaker in the 2011 draft, and Spiller’s former teammate at Clemson, Da’Quan Bowers just might fit that bill.