Based on last season, this preseason, and the Bills week one game at Kansas City it appears the Bills are in need of another all around back on the roster.
On paper it appears the Bills are solid at the RB spot. Most agree that Fred Jackson is at least a very good all around back capable of running, blocking and pas catching. Fred is clearly able to play effectively as a 3 down back.
CJ Spiller, a highly touted college player and #9 overall draft pick in 2010 backs up Fred Jackson. In college CJ displayed great ability, regularly using his speed to outrun ACC defenders to the end zone. Unfortunately, to date CJ has not shown the ability to be an effective runner at the NFL level. CJ's has been tentative and unable to pop through the smaller running lanes/creases of the NFL game. CJ has also proven to this point to be a finesse runner who lacks any ability to make yards after initial contact or break arm tackles. While Spilller has shown glimpses of being a threat in the passing game, he has not been utilized as often in that capacity as many believed he would be used. Spiller's Pass protection has to this point in his career been poor and an area he must improve upon if he wishes to become a regular player for the Bills.
Johnny White is the Bills 3rd running back. While initially high on White's potential, I question whether a preseason concussion/neck injury has set the rookie out North Carolina back in his development. Early on in camp White displayed a sudden and decisive running style that found him bursting through small creases to pick up tough yards between the tackles. During the preseason White failed to demonstrate the ability to find creases or make tacklers miss. During garbage time of the Kansas City game White was again unable to consistently gain positive yards. While it must be stated that White's playing time came with some second unit lineman playing and limited running lanes, White failed to impress or show a spark during his limited carries.
In the event Fred Jackson is unable to play the Bills offense would likely be scaled back dramatically to offset the inadequacies of Spiller and White. While it is clear the Bills could not afford to lose Stevie Johnson or Fitzpatrick, the loss of either of those players would not necessarily cause the abandonment of portions of the offense or cause whole sale adjustments to account for their absence. Other WRs (Easley or Nelson) would run SJs routes. Thigpen would run the same plays. However, in the absence of Fred Jackson the Bills would need to keep additional players in for pass protection if Spiller was to replace Jackson, as Spiller does not currently have the ability to effectively pass block. Spiller's inability to break tackles would limit the Bills ability to grind out the clock and control the ball as they did against KC, thus exposing the Bills D to more field time. It is unclear whether White has sufficient pass blocking ability to fill that roll for the Bills.
For this reason I hope the Bills are actively perusing available FA running backs. While I believe Spiller has valuable skills as a receiver and change of pace back, he is not an every down back and I can't imagine the Bills staff envisioning him as an every down back based on his showings as an NFL back. I am not under the illusion the Bills will find a back equal to Jackson. I would simply be much more comfortable with the Bills having a savvy veteran back who is good in pass protection and is capable of getting 2 or 3 yards when the blocking does not appear.
Tell me what you think and if you have any thoughts on available backs who could step in for Fred Jackson if he was injured.