I've been reading the board for the better part of a year and decided to finally share some thoughts about the upcoming Bills season.
Like many of you I have real concerns regarding the Bills offense. Questions exist regarding QB, OL, and WR. TE is arguably another question mark on the team as Nelson has shown promising potential, but little in the way of meaningful production for a starting caliber TE and Schouman has thus far proven unable to stay healthy. The one position of strength for Buffalo on the offensive side of the ball is RB. More after the jump.
Football games are won by putting your best players on the field. It would be wonderful if your best offensive players happened to be evenly spread throughout every offensive position. However, that is clearly not the case with the Bills. Two of the team's top three offensive talents, Jackson and Spiller, are running backs. (I put Evans in the top three) Lynch is one of the top four skill players from a production standpoint and arguably top two from a pure talent standpoint. Chan's job will be to figure out how to get the Bills best offensive players on the field, regardless of the fact three of them areRBs.
What follows is written with the following assumptions: The line is made up of Bell, Levitre, Hang, Wood , and Green. I am assuming all are healthy. I am not assuming a free agent pick up at LT or a trade for Gaithers/ Brown. QB will come from the current crop on the roster. Schoumann should be healthy from day 1 (I know that is quite the assumption).
From the comfort of the armchair (Lazy Boy) I can envision several offensive packages that would cause defensive coordinators real concern. The more traditional packages utilize Spiller and Jackson in the backfield at the same time. Although Jackson is not known as a lead blocker, he has shown the ability to block very effectively on the perimeter whether lined up as aWR or as a lead blocker out of the backfield. Jackson has proven to be an elite pass catching back, with exceptional hands and body control, above average elusiveness, and average speed. Spiller appears to have elite speed, elite elusiveness, above average hands, and above average body control. Lynch is a good pass blocker (blitz pickup) who has at times been a physically imposing back. Lynch's hands appear to be below average and his ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls is lacking. Considering the Bills QB's marginal accuracy Lynch's inability to adjust to poorly thrown balls is a real handicap.
Imagine the options Chan will have with Jackson and Spiller in a 2 TE package with Nelson and Schouman and Evans at WR. How would a defense counter that traditional run look package? Would they bring in an extra safety to replace a corner? Or would they defend the package as a potential 4 receiver threat with Evans and Jackson wide and Spiller and Nelson in the slot withSchouman kept in to block or slip out as a safety valve? D coordinators would have to pick their poison.
Schouman proved to be a better than expected in line blocker through the first (cough, cough) 2 games of the year, and Nelson seemed to flash real potential as a blocker. A defense would have to respect the run with that offensive package. Play action possibilities would abound. The 4 receiver look mentioned in the paragraph above would be difficult to matchup with man to man utilizing base 3-4 or 4-3 defensive personnel. Evans and Spiller demand corner coverage if split out due to speed. Evans draws safety help the majority of the time. Jackson is a mismatch for most safeties. Nelson can stretch the seem and has a huge size advantage over a safety and is faster than most LBs. Schouman has proven to be sure handed as a safety valve, and should have plenty of room to operate with Evans, Spiller, Jackson, and Nelson occupying defenders minds. MostDs would have to play zone, and would likely allow a lot of 6-8 yard underneath passes to Schouman rather than allow Spiller and Jackson to catch the ball on the move underneath or in the flats.
It is not a stretch to envision sub packages that would include Spiller, Jackson, and, Lynch on the field at the same time. WIth those 3 backs, Evans, and Nelson on the field a D coordinator would have a difficult decision as far as matchups. Would they bring in the personnel to defend a 3 back, one tight end power set, or defend what could be a 4 receiver set with Nelson and Jackson in the slot and Spiller and Evans wide? Or even a 5 receiver set with Lynch entering the pattern?
All of these possibilities depend on the Bills ability to run the ball. I believe the bills will run the ball effectively this year based on starters returning healthy (Bell, Wood,Schouman), and having continuity on the line throughout camp (no startin OL cuts one week before the season ), and having highly skilled backs. If the Bills can run, they can maximize the utility of two of their most dangerous pass catching weapons, Jackson and Spiller.
Chan may not have the exact toys he wants, but he has some toys to play with none the less. I for one am anxious to see how a creative offensive mind utilizes the highly skilled and productive dual threats the Bills have at the RB position.
Some of you will remember the dark days of the late 70's and most of the 80s. Joe Cribs helped us beat the Rams and end a long playoff drought. Thurman made our offense go in the glory years. Here is hoping Jackson and Spiller can lead us back to the playoffs like their dual threat brethren of the past.