In the first two parts of this series, we talked about Defensive Tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Now let’s take a look at the offensive side of the ball.
Last season, Running Back (RB) Fred Jackson was not only putting up career best numbers, put MVP type numbers as well. In ten games played last season, Fred Jackson had 934 rushing yards (yds) on 170 Attempts (ATT) averaging 5.5 Yards Per Attempt (YPA), 6 rushing Touchdown’s (TD’s), 39 Receptions (Rec) and 442 receiving yds, before breaking his leg and ending his season on Injured Reserve. Jackson’s previous career highs came in 2009, when interim Bills Head Coach, Perry Fewell decided to make Jackson the starting RB over Marshawn “20 Dolla/Blunt Man” Lynch, in which Jackson had 1,062 rushing yds on 237 ATT, averaging 4.5 YPA, 2 rushing TD’s, 46 Rec, 371 yds and 2 Receiving TD’s.
Bills fans have long known that Fred Jackson is one of the best backs in the league at making something out of nothing or getting that extra couple of yards because he pulled through a tackle or slipped one altogether. Pro Football Focus compiled a list of the most elusive running backs over the last three seasons, and not surprisingly Jackson ranks second only to Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart. Stewart’s league-leading elusive rating was 58.8, while Jackson’s mark was 53.3. To give an idea on how elusive Jackson is for the Bills, he had 155 fewer touches than Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson over the past three seasons (901 to 746) and still forced one more missed tackle than the Vikings’ top flight back (149 to 148). In fact no other back in football has forced more missed tackles than Jackson over the past three years.
So, we all know that Fred Jackson is one of the most elusive RB’s in the NFL. But, if healthy, can he put up his nest stats to date this year, even at age 31? There are lots of reasons to believe that Jackson can put up career numbers this year. The biggest reason is the Bills revamped defense. Last season, the Bills had to throw the ball more often than they would have liked to, because they were playing from behind most of the season. With the possibility of the new Bills defense holding their opponents to less points per game this season, and giving the Bills better field position, you can bet Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey will be dialing up his RB tandem of Jackson & CJ Spiller a lot more this season. While Jackson or Spiller will not have 300+ rushing attempts each, with both RB’s being on the field at the same time, that itself will be an advantage for both RB’s. Opposing defenses will not know which RB will be rushing the ball or be sent out to receive the ball, as both RB’s have proved to be capable receiver’s.
While most Bills fans remember how much C.J. Spiller was split out as a wide receiver last season after injuries struck the position hard in 2011, some might be surprised to know that Fred Jackson has a ton of route running experience as well.
Jackson cracked the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’ measure of backs that ran the most routes over the past three seasons. Here’s their rankings list with how many routes each back has run since the 2009 season.
1 - Ray Rice BAL – 1199
2 – LeSean McCoy PHI – 1152
3 – Chris D. Johnson TEN – 1042
4 – Steven Jackson STL – 1012
5 – Matt Forte CHI – 948
6 – Darren Sproles NO – 931
7 – Maurice Jones-Drew JAC – 864
8 – Frank Gore SF – 842
9 – LaDainian Tomlinson (retired) – 815
10 – Fred Jackson BUF – 797
Ironically, Jackson and Spiller finished with the same number of receptions last season as each pulled in 39 in the pass game, good for third best on the team last season behind Stevie Johnson and David Nelson. Jackson average 11.3 yards per catch, while Spiller averaged 6.9
Another reason is that this is year number three under Gailey’s offensive system. Unlike former Bills Head Coach Dick Jauron, Gailey’s offensive system keeps growing and evolving, compared to Jauron wanting less offensive plays, formations and motions. Expect Gailey to keep finding creative ways to getting the ball to the team’s biggest playmaker [Jackson].
As long as Fred Jackson stays healthy, you can believe that he will easily be able to put up his best stats to date in 2012.