Little has changed personnel-wise for the Buffalo Bills since the end of the 2011 season, but that doesn't mean change hasn't happened. For starters, Fred Jackson is healthy again, and he's also signed what amounts to a three-year contract extension that finally, mercifully, pays him as if he's been a star with the franchise for a number of years now.
Between Jackson and third-year pro C.J. Spiller, the Bills have a running back tandem that combined for 1,495 rushing yards (at 5.4 yards per carry), 78 receptions (for 711 yards) and 12 touchdowns last season - and that's without the two of them ever really clicking as a tandem, instead producing predominantly when each was the feature back. If Chan Gailey can figure out how to productively use these guys simultaneously, watch out.
Contract: UFA in 2015. Signed a two-year, roughly $9 million contract extension with $3 million guaranteed in May 2012.
For several weeks in 2011, Jackson was the NFL's leading rusher. He was held under 100 combined rushing and receiving yards just once in the nine games he was healthy last year, while he exceeded 150 yards four times (and had another game with 140). He runs, he catches passes, he blocks, he's dependable. We're running out of ways to say that Fred Jackson is awesome, and deserves every penny of the contract extension he signed earlier this month, even at the age of 31.
Age: 24 (25 in August 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2015. Due $3.9 million in base salary over the next three years; $12 million in incentives available in 2014.
Fans had started to dust off the "bust" word mid-way through Spiller's second season, but then he took over as the feature back following Jackson's injury and accumulated 446 rushing yards, 187 receiving yards and five total touchdowns in the team's last six games, ripping off several long runs in the process. Just like that, Spiller is now largely seen as a rising star by the fan base. He's still not as productive as Jackson - nor nearly as well-rounded - but clearly, Spiller is a player that needs to be on the field early and often entering his third season.
Age: 27 (28 in November 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Signed a one-year, $700,000 contract in March 2012.
Choice played a limited offensive role as a mid-season waiver wire add following Jackson's injury and added 121 yards and a touchdown in the same six-game stretch that Spiller's career took off. A dependable (but low-upside) third running back, Choice was retained on a one-year contract this off-season to compete for a depth spot with the next name on this list.
Contract: UFA in 2015. Entering the second year of a financially undisclosed four-year rookie contract.
A fifth-round pick a year ago, White came into the NFL with limited experience running the football and touted more for his special teams value than as a runner with upside. He touched the ball just 13 times offensively as a rookie, then lost out on an opportunity for a bigger role there when Choice was added to the roster. He's got Choice in the special teams department, but White may need to make significant strides as a runner to beat out the veteran for the third running back spot.
Age: 22 (23 in June 2012)
Contract: Undisclosed. Signed as an undrafted free agent in April 2012.
An undrafted free agent out of Missouri State, Douglas is coming off of a disappointing senior season following a stand-out junior campaign (his production dropped from 152/1051/6.9/11 to 146/511/3.5/3). A thickly-built athlete with better quicks than long speed, Douglas will compete with Choice and White, and has a shot at the practice squad as well.
Contract: UFA in 2013. Scheduled to earn $900,000 in base salary in 2012.
The lone fullback on the roster (we consider Dorin Dickerson more of a tight end or H-Back), McIntyre continues to be a dependable special teams coverage player and a more-than-adequate lead blocker for the rare occasion that Gailey's offense requires one. One of the older players on Buffalo's roster, McIntyre has a small, but important role on this football team, and performs it well.
POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: It's fair to make an argument that Jackson and Spiller are the two best offensive threats the Bills employ (with only Stevie Johnson belonging in the conversation at other positions), and it's absolutely imperative that Gailey and the offensive staff figure out a way to get both to produce, rather than having one produce while the other watches from the sidelines. The Bills aren't so deep at other skill positions that they can afford to have one running back in the flow of the game at a time. Behind the two stars, they have a dependable veteran and a couple of young prospects. The Bills are clearly in good shape at this position.