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NFL Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills: Big Decisions Lie Ahead

Stevie Johnson

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes in sports, you have to realize that you’re supporting a losing cause. When you realize that, it becomes time to adjust and move on.

The Buffalo Bills might have to consider whether or not they would do such a thing with two of their offense’s biggest players: C.J. Spiller and Stevie Johnson.

On the surface, that seems like a very foolhardy decision, no? Why would the Bills want to move on from their dynamic, former first-round pick at running back? He’s capable of hitting a home run at any moment from any spot on the field. Similar thoughts could be had about the Bills top receiver in Johnson, a moniker he has held for the last several seasons.

But when you look at the way the offense has performed this season, you begin to wonder. It’s been a mostly start-and-stop effort from this Bills’ offense. One game, they look dynamic, young and capable of hanging with anyone in the league thanks to the talent in place and head coach Doug Marrone’s fast-paced offense. The next game, they’re being held to next to nothing offensively, the running game struggles and quarterback E.J. Manuel not only looks bad, but is punished by opposing defensive lines with consistency.

Will the Bills ever get that top-five back they thought they’d nabbed when they took Spiller in the first round a few years ago? Sure, he’s explosive and capable of huge plays at any moment, but he’s also been held to two yards or fewer per carry four times this season. He’s just not a strong between the tackles runner and needs to find more consistency, especially as a receiver and blocker. He’s lost a great deal of snaps to veteran Fred Jackson for just those reasons as Jackson is far more reliable on passing downs.

He’s signed through the 2015 season, so he likely isn’t going anywhere, but it might be time to consider whether Spiller will ever be more than just a very good platoon back. He needs to grow as a runner and find a way to contribute more than just the occasional explosive play.

As for Johnson, he’s been the team’s leading receiver, but that’s for one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL. He’s been hurt this year by several factors: inconsistent play from Manuel and the other quarterbacks who replaced him during his time away due to injury, injuries to Johnson himself, who has missed two games this year and chunks of others while consistently being banged up, and critical mistakes like big drops or the fumble he had at the end of regulation last week that wound up being a huge reason the Bills lost in overtime.

Also to consider: was Stevie ever really a No. 1 receiver? He’s always been a very good receiver, but never the type of No. 1 you think of. With his being due a $1.75 million roster bonus in 2014, the Bills will need to think hard about keeping him on board. Will an improved quarterback help things? Can Johnson stay healthy enough to make an impact? Can Robert Woods fill his shoes if he moves on? All of those are very big questions to consider heading into the offseason.

Depending on what happens with the Bills in the next few months, April’s draft may have just gotten a whole lot more interesting.