In his first year as head coach and offensive orchestrator of the Buffalo Bills, Chan Gailey took his troops to levels of production that we, as fans, hadn't seen since Mike Mularkey and Drew Bledsoe were in town. Even still, the offense ranked near the bottom of the league, and was not even close to being consistent enough to field a winning team.
The one player that can take Buffalo's offense to new heights in Gailey's second year? Well, that's Ryan Fitzpatrick. Obviously. But if we're talking non-quarterbacks under that umbrella, there's no more obvious answer than second-year running back C.J. Spiller.
We've been over Spiller's rookie season repeatedly - particularly where he needs to improve most (ball security and pass protection). His poor statistical production and lack of ease transitioning from college to the pros are well-established. Not enough Bills fans appreciate what Spiller did bring to the table as a rookie, however.
Opposing defenses paid more attention to Spiller last season than any other Bill aside from Lee Evans. Speed alone makes Spiller a player that teams must account for on every snap, and his versatility makes that all the more difficult. During Buffalo's hot streak in the middle of the season, when they repeatedly played playoff teams to the final whistle, Spiller was not particularly productive, but his presence on the field allowed many of his teammates to put up career numbers.
Even to me, it feels like I'm overstating what Spiller's mere presence means to the team, and to a point, I am. But when talking about Spiller, we must consider what I like to call the Reggie Bush factor - what he brings to the table can't be measured solely by statistics.
Evans and Roscoe Parrish have game-breaking ability at receiver, but Spiller's speed is something that the Bills need to better utilize this coming season. More importantly, Spiller needs to increase his all-around reliability and get far more comfortable on the field than he was as a rookie. When those things happen, Spiller will - not might, but will - take Buffalo's offense to another level. That'll be true even if he's not putting up Pro Bowl-level statistics.
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