Lynch, Jackson will be used plenty in 2008 (Photo Source)
When he was hired as the new offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills this past January, Turk Schonert promised to get Buffalo's two running backs, particularly Marshawn Lynch, more involved in the team's offensive attack.
If that turns out to be true, Lynch and his running mate, Fred Jackson, are in for very busy 2008 seasons.
Jackson made a name for himself in '07 while filling in for an injured Lynch, who missed three games, and he remained a part of Buffalo's offense even after Lynch returned to the lineup. During the four-game stretch in which the duo played significant amounts of time together, they were, in a word, invaluable to Buffalo's (mediocre) offensive attack.
Take their combined stat lines from those four games, for instance:
Lynch, Weeks 14-17: 84 carries, 364 yards, 1 TD; 3 catches, 64 yards
Jackson, Weeks 14-17: 33 carries, 184 yards; 10 catches, 66 yards
Those numbers weren't accrued against cupcake defenses, either. Sure, Miami was involved, but Cleveland, the Giants and Philadelphia were all very solid teams. These two players combined for 130 touches between them in those four games (an average of 32.5 per game combined), and now, with the hiring of Schonert, we're expecting more from this duo. Between the two, assuming they're both healthy for the entire '08 season, the duo could combine for 35-40 touches per game. That's a very, very high total.
What's most important to realize about this duo is that with Jackson playing the role of complement, Lynch was far more effective, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and a whopping 21 yards per reception (a number that certainly would have dwindled had he been more involved as a receiver). During the 9 games Lynch played without a steady complement, he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and 8 yards per reception.
Let's extrapolate those four-game numbers for a healthy 16-game season for each player. Clearly there will be some fluctuations based on the new offensive system, but even without factoring that into the equation, some of these numbers are staggering:
Lynch Extrapolated: 336 carries, 1456 yards
Jackson Extrapolated: 132 carries, 40 receptions
Is it really fathomable that these two players could touch the ball that many times this season? In short, yes. Considering the dearth of talent the Bills have at the tight end position, Buffalo's running backs are expected to pick up some of the slack in the short-area passing game. It seems far-fetched, but looking at last year's small sample, this duo should surpass 500 combined touches quite easily.
When you have two good players at one position, there can sometimes be mutiny over playing time. But by all accounts, Lynch and Jackson have a good relationship. They'd better; they're bound to be on the field at the same time in 2008 for stretches. When you have good players, use them - but not at the expense of sacrificing touches for your other skill players. Schonert's biggest task will be getting Lynch and Jackson their touches without taking them away from guys like Lee Evans, James Hardy and Roscoe Parrish.
Two-headed rushing duos are hard to game plan for. It looks like the Bills have a good one that they'll be able to use throughout the entire 2008 season. Time will tell, however, just how big a part of Buffalo's offense they are this season.