With the 9th pick in the 2010 draft, the Buffalo Bills pick CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson.
I don’t think that many Bills fans saw that one coming, most were surprised and many were even upset. The Bills who had pressing needs at many key positions: Quarterback, Left and Right Tackle, Pass Rusher, Tight End, Linebacker (inside and out), Defensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Cornerback and more. Running back was the least of our problems. With both Marshawn Lynch and Freddy Jackson there was absolutely no need to take a Running Back with our only first round pick in the 2009 draft.
After failing to attract a big named football guy and at the time the two names that were circulating were Shannahan and Cowher. Nobody is really sure how seriously they were pursued but in the end, Ralph Wilson chose to entrust the rebuilding process to someone he trusted, someone with whom he had previous experience, someone from the scouting side that knew a thing or two about rebuilding a franchise after having spent 7-8 years rebuilding the Chargers into a perennial playoff contender.
Buddy Nix wasn’t the popular peoples choice but he was probably the right choice. A no nonsense guy, he immediately assembled a staff of seasoned experienced football guys that were known more for their teaching and development abilities than anything else. These weren’t big named guys with rings, they were solid guys that successfully got the most out of their teams and players by teaching them the game from the fundamentals.
So when Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey chose to use the first pick of their regime on what seemed like the only position where the Bills actually had some solid talent, they were questioned. The fanbase was up in arms and rightfully so. Nix and Gailey defended their position that he was clearly the best athlete on the board and that a guy that talented could be used in so many ways. They raved about Spiller’s speed, quickness and return ability, referring to him as a “Jitterbug” type back.
Now in his second season, Spiller is averaging less carries, less receptions and less kick returns per game. The only area where he is averaging more is in the punt return duties and only because Roscoe Parrish was injured early into the season.
Rushing attempts: 18% (average 3.8y)
Receiving: 8% (average 6.5y) with 1TD
Kick return: 64% (average 23y)
Punt return: 38% (average 14.6y)
Rushing attempts: 8% (average 6.3y) with 1TD -> Down 10%
Receiving: 7% (average 4.9y) with 1TD -> Down 1%
Kick return: 23% (average 26y) -> Down 41%
Punt return: 62% (average 7.3y) -> Up 24%
Spiller has shown improvement in most areas. His average rush attempt is now at 6.3y which is a big improvement over last season but even so, his carries have been reduced more than half. His kick return average is also slightly up but again his attempts have been cut by 2/3s and given to newly acquired Brad Smith who has averaged only 18y per return. His punt return average is down by almost half but yet the attempts have almost doubled. The biggest difference over 2010 is the fact that he is rarely used and he’s lost a big chunk of playing time to Brad Smith in kick returns, which do not seem to be warranted.
It’s difficult to understand how an offensive minded coach such as Chan Gailey, a guy known for his ability to transform ordinary talent into above average production – how can he not find a way to get his new toy, the toy that he absolutely needed in 2009, how can he not find a way to give him more than 7% of the carries? Fred Jackson is having a career year handling 70% of the carries and averaging 5.6y per carry. It’s hard to understand how the Bills coaching staff cannot find a way to give Spiller a few more carries.
Clearly for some reason, Spiller seems to have fallen out of favor of this coaching staff. This same coaching staff that vaunted Spiller as the ultimate universal weapon. A guy that was so good that they could not pass him up. This same guy is now relegated to what essentially is bench duty.
Going into week 11, the Buffalo Bills are 5-4. They have hit a wall and are on a 2 game losing slide. The Buffalo Bills have very few top draft picks on offense and it seems absurd that the only skill positioned first rounder on this team be relegated to bench duty when the team desperately needs a spark. It’s time for our coaching staff to find a way to get Spiller on the field.