With Fred Jackson out Thursday night because of a concussion, it was C.J. Spiller's time to shine for the Bills. Anything short of a 25-carry effort against Miami would be foolish ... and he still only got 22 as the Bills squeaked out a 19-14 victory against the Dolphins.
But for some reason, Spiller felt like he showed up Thursday and shoved it in the face of his "critics." Last I checked, there wasn't anyone who actually criticized him.
"I answered the critics tonight. I told them I can tote it 20-plus times. It don't matter to me," Spiller said following the game. "We knew they had a tough defense, a good run defense. We're not going to take nothing away from those guys. But I told my offensive line let's get on those guys early and at the end they'll get tired. And that's what happened and in the second half I was able to get what I wanted."
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This bugs me for some reason. Not because people question Spiller -- he's definitely been questioned. (Not by me -- I watched him throw, run and catch a touchdown pass against my team when he was at Clemson in 2009.) It bugs me because the only thing holding him back is his own head coach.
Yeah, people wondered if Spiller could be a "feature back" coming out of the draft and that's silly. Of course he can in today's NFL, a league where having a guy who's dynamic in space infinitely trumps having a grinder who would've been called a "franchise back" just five years ago.
Spiller's part of a new breed of running backs (if you watch Pro Football 360, you'd probably hear them referred to as "air backs"). You want to give him the ball as much as possible, you want to get him 30 touches a game in both the running and passing game and, frankly, you want to keep the ball out of Tashard Choice's hands. No offense to Choice, but he got six carries for 14 yards. Spiller had 91 yards on 22 carries and deserved more, which he would've been fine with.
"When someone questions you as a man, I take that to heart," Spiller said. "People are saying I'm too small and can't do it. And I just wanted to come out and show them I could do it. I could've toted it 30 times tonight if I wanted."
Once Fred Jackson gets back, his role shouldn't be eliminated, but I can't stress this enough: Chan Gailey and the Bills are the only ones holding Spiller back.
When Spiller gets the ball, he crushes. Look no further than his stretch of games at the end of 2011, when he averaged 74 rushing yards (on 14 attempts), 31 receiving yards (on four catches) and a TD per game over his final six games. That's still borderline under-usage for the all-purpose talent.
Or how about his first two games of the season? Given 29 carries against the Jets and Chiefs, Spiller piled up over 290 rushing yards, five catches, and three touchdowns. He dealt with an injury, sure, but it was on a fluke play. The guy can be a dominant player if he's given the ball early and often.
Handing him 22 carries against Miami on Thursday was a good start. But he needs more and it's become obvious what giving him the additional touches will result in: additional results and additional chances for Buffalo to score points.
The point of all this? There are no critics of Spiller remaining, only a small group of people who don't seem dedicated to getting him the ball as much as he deserves.