On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense to suggest that benching C.J. Spiller in favor of Fred Jackson represents the best move for the Buffalo Bills. Spiller is a proven playmaker and a game-breaking talent entering the prime of his career, while Jackson is a 32-year-old workhorse nursing a nagging knee injury. Neither player is currently operating at 100 percent (Spiller has been dealing with an ankle sprain since Week 4), so why would the Bills opt to start the aging Jackson on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints?
The biggest issue here is the drastically different playing styles of Buffalo’s featured backs. Spiller, when healthy, is capable of eluding tacklers and bursting across the second level at any moment. His game is predicated on speed and quickness, but when that explosiveness is diminished by injury – as it currently is – there’s really not much playmaking potential left.
Jackson, on the other hand, has developed into a savvy bruiser. FredEx is the heart of Buffalo’s offense, and he plays like it. He’s never one to shy away from contact or fight for the extra yard. Jackson plays with a fire and energy seldom seen in the NFL, and although he lacks elite speed, his years of experience give him a mental edge over most defenders.
In other words, while it’s obviously not ideal for Fred Jackson to be playing through a knee injury, it won’t keep him from being Fred Jackson. Conversely, Spiller’s ankle injury has already proven to be a huge detriment to his quick-cutting, all-out style of play.
Despite the fact that Spiller believes he will be ready to play come Sunday, head coach Doug Marrone is making the right call by keeping him out. It makes no sense to force carries on an ineffective and still-healing Spiller when Jackson is more than capable of getting the job done in the meantime.