Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. This year we want your opinion on what the most likely answers to these questions will be. After reading each daily installment as the Bills get set for Year 1 under head coach Doug Marrone, go to the Bills daily fan poll leading up to report day at training camp and vote. You could be eligible to win tickets to night practice. Here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 28th and the Sept. 8th home opener.
It’s always been an elusive milestone for NFL running backs. Accruing 2,000 rushing yards in a single season has been accomplished by just seven players in league history. The Bills’ O.J. Simpson was the first to do so with 2,003 in just 14 games in 1973. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson was the last rolling up 2,095 rushing yards in 2012. With a different approach to the run game now with head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, there’s the belief that
Marrone was not shy in sharing his approach to the run game as he sees it.
“My philosophy has always been that if someone starts off and they’re running well we’ll just keep feeding them the ball,” he said.
Hackett echoed Marrone’s sentiments despite having an offensive scheme that is sometimes misinterpreted as a hurry-up passing attack.
“When in doubt, give it to a back. That’s our motto,” said Hackett. “You always want to be able to run the ball. It helps everybody out on the field. It’s a good chunk of yards, especially when you’re handing the ball to the guys that we have back there. It’s a very good group coached by a very good coach and it’s an exciting deal to be able to turn around and hand the ball off or from the gun or wherever it is. You really want to give those guys the ball one way or the other.”
Spiller, who is coming off a 1,244-yard rushing season on just 207 carries, tied Peterson for the league lead in yards per carry average last season with a lofty figure of six. Peterson had 141 more carries than Spiller, which helped him eclipse the 2,000-yard plateau.
An increased workload figures to be the plan for the AFC Pro Bowl back based on what he’s heard from Buffalo’s coaching staff. Spiller, as usual, doesn’t want to get caught up in the numbers.
“I’m just getting my body prepared for anything that’s thrown at me,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are capable of running the ball. The main thing that I don’t have to worry myself over is wearing my body down because I know we have other great backs that can spell me and vice versa. If a guy has got the hot hand and he’s running good, let him run. If he needs a breather we’ll go get him. Our biggest thing is being fresh for four quarters or however long it takes to get the win. That’s what I’m concerned with more than anything.”
Bills GM Doug Whaley provided a more direct outlook on the potential production Spiller could provide in 2013.
“I think the sky is limit for this guy,” Whaley told Buffalobills.com. “I do believe that the coaching staff is going to accentuate everything that is positive about C.J.’s game and actually put it on display. They’re not going to say there are ‘X’ number of touches that he’s going to get each game, but he’s going to be a focal point of our offense.”
Knowing Hackett’s offense will be up tempo they’re expected to run significantly more plays per game than they did a season ago (61.4). Syracuse averaged just over 79 plays per game in 2012 with Hackett at the controls, and they ran the ball more than 52 percent of the time. That translates in just over 41 run plays per game. That should mean significantly more carries for Spiller, who averaged just a shade under 13 per game (12.9) in 2012.
“If he has a great season then I’m going to be really excited. I think we all are,” said Hackett. “He’s a dynamic football player. There’s no doubt about that. I think from my position I look at him and a guy like
Spiller has always been respected by defenses for his breakaway ability, but his exploits still caught some by surprise last season. Now a Pro Bowl back, Spiller knows opponents will key on him each week, but he’s fine with that.
“I’m not going to sneak up on anybody,” he said. “I don’t think from my second year towards the end of the season all the way to this year I didn’t sneak up on anybody. I just went out there and the offensive line did a great job. I don’t want to sneak up on anybody. I want them to see me coming. I’ve just got to have a great offseason and then once the season starts be ready to go.”
If he is ready and stays healthy, 2,000 rushing yards in Hackett’s scheme appears attainable.