The Buffalo Bills continue to await word on the extent of the injuries suffered by running backs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch in their pre-season blowout loss to Washington.
We already know that Jackson, whose left hand injury will keep him out the remainder of the pre-season, will undergo further tests. Bills head coach Chan Gailey hopes to have him back for the start of the regular season. Lynch, meanwhile, is dealing with an ankle injury after getting brought to the ground in an awkward fashion to close Buffalo's first drive Friday night; it's not yet known how serious the injury is, but it appeared to be minor. At the very least, it seems likely that Lynch will miss this Thursday's pre-season game against Indianapolis as a precautionary measure.
With Jackson shelved for Thursday's pre-season game, and Lynch likely to be as well, Buffalo will get a long look at its three newest runners - rookies C.J. Spiller and Joique Bell, and young veteran Chad Simpson. As Lynch and Jackson are locks for the final roster (as is Spiller), this will be a great opportunity for the deeper reserve players to earn a spot on what is sure to be a run-heavy offensive team.
Spiller's NFL career got off to a quiet start on Friday, with the former Clemson star carrying the ball four times for 16 yards, including an 11-yard run on his first pre-season carry. Spiller looked hesitant at times - a fact that he admitted to post-game - and anxious at others, as Washington bottled him up pretty well. He also looked slightly out of his element returning one punt and struggled to provide the necessary pop in blitz pickup, getting driven backwards on more than one occasion. Still, Spiller had only been with the team for a week, having signed his rookie deal the Friday before the game, and he needed to knock the rust off. The likely starter against Indianapolis, he'll get an opportunity to vastly improve on his inaugural performance.
Bell, an undrafted free agent out of Wayne State, was fourth through in the rotation in D.C., and didn't disappoint as a runner. He carried five times for 52 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown through a hole created by bad technique from a 'Skins DE and a nice kick-out block from. himself could have run through that hole, but Bell showed nice burst scooting by the second-level defenders for the score. He also caught two passes for six yards. Bell wasn't perfect, however, running onto the field late as a member of the punt coverage unit that gave up a 77-yard score to Brad Banks.
Simpson was stellar as well, picking up 43 yards on a third-quarter run - the longest run by either team on the night - and totaling 67 yards on seven carries. A third-year player out of Morgan State, Simpson spent his first two years with Indianapolis - the team he'll face Thursday night. Simpson is very quick with good burst, and could get reps ahead of Bell on Thursday, as the two currently seem to be on pretty even footing. He could also get a closer look as a kick returner, as any extra value he'd add to the team (should he make it) would be welcome.
Buffalo had a high pass-to-run ratio from its second- and third-team offenses in Washington, and that could continue against Indianapolis, so if any of these players shows well as a receiver, they'll set themselves apart a little bit. One thing is clear: opportunity is knocking for these talented young players, and the Bills have a lot to learn about all three over the next few weeks.