With Spiller, You Take The Bad With The Breathtaking

Buffalo Bills rookie running back C.J. Spiller is one of the NFL's hot topics this lovely Friday morning after his 10-rush, 54-yard performance in Thursday night's 34-21 win over the Indianapolis Colts. You'll be seeing a lot of Spiller's scintillating 31-yard touchdown scamper in highlight packages today; Spiller made two-time Pro Bowl end Robert Mathis miss in the backfield, crossed up cornerback Jacob Lacey at the second level with ease, and then juked past two-time Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea on his way to paydirt.

If you weren't convinced of it before, you should be now: Spiller is a uniquely gifted player capable of taking it to the house every time he touches the football. He has legitimate superstar potential.

One of the bigger problems with speed backs - and young, inexperienced speed backs in particular - is their tendency to be very feast or famine with their touches. Buffalo's coaching staff won't care in relation to the scoreboard when Spiller averages 5.4 yards per carry and sparks his offense with a touchdown, but they'll care when they look back at the film and see some negative plays for that very same offense.

First thing's first - if Spiller gets anything in the way of daylight, he's got a legitimate chance of putting points on the board. Setting aside his touchdown run, there were several more plays on Thursday night that, had it not been for last-second shoestring tackles and poor luck, could have been much more than the modest gains they were. Perhaps even more importantly, Spiller proved himself capable of pass-blocking well enough to help his offense, as well; on Trent Edwards' 70-yard scoring strike to Lee Evans, for example, Spiller stepped into Dwight Freeney and kept him at bay long enough for Edwards to sit in the pocket and throw it down field. Spiller struggled to pass protect against Washington, so strides in that department were arguably nicer to see than his big runs.

Take a look at Spiller's play-by-play against Indy to see how feast or famine he can be, even in an excellent performance:

Run Line Result
1 Left End 4-yard gain
2 Middle 31-yard TD
3 Right Tackle No Gain
4 Middle 6-yard loss
5 Left Tackle 1-yard gain
6 Middle 3-yard gain
7 Middle 5-yard gain
8 Left Guard 12-yard gain
9 Left End 6-yard gain
10 Middle 2-yard loss

In 10 rushes, it's not very fun to see three runs for no gain or negative yardage. That's going to happen with a young speed back and an inconsistent (to be kind) offensive line. Take out that touchdown run, and Spiller averaged 2.56 yards on his remaining nine runs - and he still very nearly broke more big gainers. That will be the essence of Spiller as he begins his NFL career - breathtaking big plays with a healthy side of negative, as well. When this guy finds consistency in all phases of his game, that's when Spiller will enter superstar territory.

It was very easy to see what sets Spiller apart last night. He gets to the edge of the defense with astonishing ease. His cutting ability makes Roscoe Parrish look rather pedestrian. His acceleration is top-notch, his vision is excellent, and he's got great instincts and a nose for the end zone. You have every reason to be excited about Spiller's pro prospects; he does things that very few human beings are capable of doing. But for now, the simple fact of the matter is what we'll have to take some bad with the breathtaking.

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