Unlike Spiller, Jackson does much of his work without the benefit of big plays, grinding out his numbers by taking what the defense gives rather than providing a home-run threat on any down. While most of the members of the Bears back seven that was responsible for surrendering so many big plays has returned, the team has overhauled the defense line, signing three new defensive ends and drafting two rotational defensive tackles.
Two of those free-agent additions are Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, the two players that graded out as the best 4-3 defensive ends in run stop percentage last season, per Pro Football Focus. With those two players in tow and second-round draft pick Ego Ferguson taking up space in the middle, Jackson could have difficulty converting on short-yardage or goal-line situations.
It's also fair to wonder how many long scoring drives the Bills will be able to put together if Jackson and the offensive line can't stymie the line's potentially improved rush defense. EJ Manuel hasn't done enough at this point in his career to trust his ability to pick defenses apart with his arm. If the Bills have trouble finding the red zone, Jackson could wind up being a Week 1 Flex option Fantasy owners come to regret.
Both players had productive games. Spiller got the start and took nine handoffs for 36 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt. He caught all three of his targets for 23 yards.
It took until the final drive of the afternoon with the first unit for Jackson to find the end zone. He broke free for an 8-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He finished with five carries for 15 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted seven times and had four receptions for 23 yards.
Spiller returned the opening kickoff and took a backseat to Jackson on offense. Both running backs played the entire first half.
Jackson earned the start and was heavily involved on both facets of the offense. He took six handoffs for 27 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt. He caught all of his seven targets for 28 yards. Spiller had six carries for 16 yards, averaging 2.7 yards per attempt. He was not targeted by EJ Manuel in the passing game.
"I don’t know if I want to get it down to three. I’ve never been a guy that has three backs playing in the game," Marrone told ESPN.com. "I’ve always believed, and you guys know, in the two backs. It’ll come down to two backs; the two backs going in there."
Jackson shared the load with C.J. Spiller and the rest of the first-team offense for two series. He ripped his first handoff for a gain of seven yards in the opening drive before losing a yard on his second and final touch of the game. He rushed for six yards on two carries, averaging 3.0 yards per attempt. He was not targeted in the passing game.
The Bills will travel to Carolina for their second preseason game on Friday.
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