The 2012 Buffalo Bills season will be known for — among other things — being the year C.J. Spiller officially supplanted Fred Jackson as the Bills’ starting running back. Spiller was finally able to channel the electrifying speed he displayed during his college years at the professional level, and he established himself as one of the best young running backs in the league. For all the other insecurities plaguing this Bills team, Spiller is the one guy they know they can count on.
As for Jackson, things were a lot less pleasant for him. He struggled mightily in the early weeks of the season, allowing Spiller to get more carries, and eventually usurp his position as the starting running back. Then, after he got his groove back and he and Spiller started to look like a fearsome duo, he suffered a season-ending injury for the second straight year.
Going into the 2013 season, one can’t help but wonder what Jackson still has left in the tank. For one thing, he turned 32 this year, which is like 38 in running back years. Granted, he didn’t begin playing in the NFL until he was 26, so he might be what we could call a “young” 32, but the fact remains that age eventually catches up with everyone. After Jackson struggled through the 2012 season, it’s hard to not wonder if Jackson’s best years are behind.
On the flip side, let’s suppose Jackson still has something in the tank, and can service as a nice compliment to Spiller in the Bills backfield. If that’s the case, wouldn’t the Bills have the most fearsome running back duo in the NFL?
We already know how good Spiller is; he’s got blistering speed and is capable of reeling off multiple lengthy runs in a single game. Before Spiller came along, that was Jackson’s job, and while he’s not quite as fast as Spiller, he can be quite a force to contend with if he’s at 100%. If Jackson can stay healthy, and shake off the issues that plagued him last season, the Bills could be seriously stacked at the running-back position.
This is key because the Bills offense needs something it can rely on going into this season, especially with all the questions facing them at the quarterback position. Kevin Kolb has experience, and he’s looked solid from time to time, but he’s gotten injured season after season. E.J. Manuel could become a great quarterback one day, but he’s extremely raw, and if the Bills go with him as the starter right away, they could encounter some serious growing pains.
The quarterback position will likely be problematic area for the bills this season, and their best hope to mitigate it is with Spiller and Jackson becoming an unstoppable running tandem. We know Spiller is capable of being a workhorse, the question is whether Jackson can get his groove back, and hold up his end of the bargain. If he can, the Bills might be tougher then most people expect this season.