Patriots 37, Bills 31: Buffalo Still Needs More C.J. Spiller

Jared Wickerham

If you were coaching the Buffalo Bills, who would you play more: C.J. Spiller or T.J. Graham? Chan Gailey's answer isn't appealing to Bills fans.

Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller is having a phenomenal season. After nine games, he's still averaging a whopping 7.3 yards per carry. He's also averaging 10.6 yards per reception. In yesterday's 37-31 loss to the New England Patriots, he averaged 7.8 yards per carry and 15.3 yards per catch. Somehow, that entitled him to 13 total touches and 40 plays on the sideline.

You read that right: Spiller was on the field for 34 plays and on the sidelines for 40. Meanwhile, rookie wide receiver T.J. Graham - he of the fatal late-game mistake - got 45 snaps. Sure, Graham plays a different position and is part of the team's three-receiver personnel package, whereas Spiller is in a time share with another competent running back. But football gods, having your best player on the sideline for more than half of the game is insane.

Spiller is one of the most explosive players in football. This is not a mirage; he is the definition of an elite player. There is Marshall Faulk potential in this runner. His current role within Chan Gailey's offense is no longer excusable; it's sickening. Nick Mendola has this one right: free C.J., Coach Gailey.

Here are a few other rep count notes from yesterday's loss:

  • For those keeping track of the division of labor between Spiller and Fred Jackson, the elder statesmen was on the field for 42 reps to Spiller's 34. The two were on the field simultaneously on just two plays. The gap might have been wider had Jackson not been forced from the game with a head injury late in the fourth quarter.
  • Nick Barnett was one of two Bills defenders that played all 72 snaps defensively, and it showed: he was roundly abused all day, as the Patriots targeted his area of the field with both their running and passing attacks. Barnett repeatedly yielded big plays, and has clearly lost a step after a rock solid 2011 campaign. Buffalo needed Barnett to be Superman this year, but he may have reached the kryptonite stage of his career.
  • With two defensive ends sidelined, Kyle Moore got a significant amount of playing time; in fact, he got one more rep (64) than did Mario Williams. Those two ends played almost 90 percent of total snaps, with third defensive end Shawne Merriman (14 snaps) barely factoring into the equation. The Bills look like they have a keeper in Moore, who admittedly did not have his best game on Sunday.
  • Da'Norris Searcy continues to slowly eat away more of the George Wilson workload; he's up to taking 38 percent of snaps away from the starting strong safety. Wilson, due $2.45 million next season in the final year of his deal, may be without a starting job next off-season.
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