Running back C.J. Spiller was thrown into the Bills' feature role when Fred Jackson was injured last season, and responded in a big way, finishing with 561 yards on 5.2 yards per carry while also catching 39 passes last season.
After a disappointing rookie season, Spiller's emergence in 2011 has spilled into Buffalo's offseason program.
"His confidence level just went through the roof in my opinion," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "He knows what to do a lot better now. He has a lot of confidence that he can play running back, he can go out and play receiver, he can do a lot of things and blocking.
"He's gotten better at his blocking from the previous year. His ball security was a lot better last year. He carried it multiple times and did a good job of controlling the ball. Just his overall confidence level I think is very good this year."
The Bills re-signed Jackson in the offseason, and one of Gailey's offseason priorities is constructing an offense that suits both players while also getting them enough touches.
"You're trying to construct enough to create problems for the defense but not so much that you're relying totally on having both of them at the same time," Gailey said. "That's a fine line that you walk creating offenses to be able to take advantage of both good players."
Both running backs are excellent receivers, providing a lot of versatility in an offense that often features three, four and even five receivers.
"C.J. and I are joking with each other when we go in what position we're at. I'm trying to confuse him and he's trying to confuse me," Jackson said. "The more we get used to doing it the better we'll get at doing it. Hopefully it'll be something we can use as a tool throughout the season."
The Bills are also working fullback Dorin Dickerson into certain packages. While he's not a traditional blocker the team wants going up against defensive linemen, he is an H-Back candidate with his own versatility as a receiver.
"He's good enough to block on the line some but to say down-in and down-out that you would ask him to go line up against big defensive ends, we wouldn't do that. We're going to try to take his abilities and work things around to let him be good."
--Backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen is expected to miss the rest of this week's OTA work due to a nagging rib cage injury.
--Offensive tackle Erik Pears will be out until training camp following minor surgery for an undisclosed injury.
--Outside linebacker/defensive end Shawne Merriman continues to progress after returning to practice last week as he continues to work his way back following Achilles surgery.
"He's coming off the edge with that same speed and quickness that I remember. It looks good right now," Gailey said. "The best thing about it is he says he feels good. There's not one of those where he's feeling something or trying to hide something or limping or something that like that as he's coming off the field at the end of practice. He's bouncing off at the end of practice like he did at the start of practice."
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