Heading into Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets are surely focusing much of their defensive preparation on figuring out how to shut down Bills star running back C.J. Spiller. In 2010 and 2011 Spiller received very few carries in his four games against the Jets, so there isn’t much to take away from those.
However, Spiller gashed the Jets in last year’s opener to the tune of 169 yards and 1 TD on just 14 carries. The Jets then rebounded nicely when the teams met again in the season finale, holding Spiller to just 59 yards on 24 carries. However, they did allow a 66 yard touchdown reception. Spiller has been a little slow to start this season, while the Jets’ run defense has been excellent through the first two games.
The Jets rank fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and 3rd in yards per carry in this young season, which is even more impressive considering they have faced two very talented backs in Doug Martin and Stevan Ridley in the first two weeks of the season. However, Spiller is a very different player from these two. While Martin and Ridley are between the tackles runners, Spiller is far more explosive, with elite speed and receiving skills.
The Jets will need top notch performances from their defensive ends and outside linebackers in this game. Those players must set the edge and not allow Spiller to bounce to the outside. At end, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson should have no problem handling the Bills’ below average offensive line and getting backfield penetration.
At linebacker, however, Calvin Pace, Garrett McIntyre and, if he plays, Quinton Coples, may have more trouble. None of these players possess elite speed, and Spiller could be able to turn the corner on them.
DeMario Davis will be the key to the Jets’ defense. The second year linebacker has excellent speed, agility and pass coverage skills, and he will bear the brunt of the responsibility of stopping Spiller as a receiver. Davis must keep Spiller in front of him and not allow him to break free, or the Jets will be in trouble.
Defending Spiller requires discipline, patience and sure tackling. Spiller is one of the most elusive players in the NFL, and the Jets will need two or three defenders to bring him down. They can’t allow Spiller to find space, and they must force him back to areas where they have help.
The Jets have the talent and athletic ability to handle Spiller, and they have shown that they can do that in the past. They should be able to shut down Spiller as a runner, but there are far bigger concerns about whether they can stop him as a receiver. The Jets have had some issues with pass catching running backs over the last few seasons, and Spiller is one of the best.
Taking away Spiller is the key for the Jets’ defense in this game, and if they can do that they will cripple the Bills’ offense. It is very difficult to completely take Spiller away, but if they can hold him to moderate effectiveness with no big plays, the Jets will have a great chance to win.