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Recent posts by Eli Kaberon
INDIANAPOLIS — At last year's NFL Combine, Clemson RB C.J. Spiller was all the rage, showcasing the speed and athleticism that made him a dynamic college player. Spiller ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds and proved to be a skilled pass catcher, solidifying his place as the top running back in the Class of 2010.
His skills were enough to entice the Bills, a team without a huge need for a running back, to use the ninth overall pick to select him. It was the team's first draft choice under GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey, who envisioned Spiller to be a multi-dimensional player that would compliment the team's existing running backs: Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.
That never came to fruition. Lynch was traded to the Seahawks in early October after a slow start and Spiller rarely saw the field for Buffalo. The rookie averaged 3.8 yards on 74 carries and caught only 24 passes in his 14 games, with his greatest impact coming as a kick returner. Only Jackson, who started 2010 as the team's third-string running back, proved to be a consistent player for the Bills last season.
Heading into the 2011 season, Gailey said the team believes Spiller can live up to the lofty expectations better in his second season. His disappointing rookie campaign was not expected, but the team still has tremendous faith that the running back will become the gamebreaker they envisioned last April.
"It didn't work out like everybody planned; he planned, I planned, any fan out there planned. It didn't work out like any of us planned," Gailey said in reference to Spiller. "I still think he's going to be a very good to great player for the Buffalo Bills. No question in my mind. I think I'll do a better job this year creating ways to use him more."
The head coach attributed some of Spiller's struggles to the fact that both the player and the coach were in their first year with the team. Buffalo's offense struggled to gel early in the season, as changes at quarterback, running back and on the offensive line resulted in weekly adjustments to the team's lineup and gameplan. With the second-year running back and second-year coach both more comfortable, the overall results should improve.
"When you are establishing what you're trying to get done offensively, you have a hard time deviating too much doing things for one guy to create things for one guy," Gailey said. "We were in the process of evaluating everybody on our offense because it was a just a 'Getting to know you' year. So I think I'll do a better job next year of incorporating him."
Gailey said he told Spiller two skills he needs to work on this offseason: ball security (five fumbles as a rookie) and pass protection. With questions still lingering on the Bills at QB and the offensive line, the team would love if Spiller could complement Jackson and be the one-two running back punch they imagined.
"(C.J.)'s still a great player. He's still a great young man. He is going to be very productive in this league for a long time," Gailey said. "Just because it didn't work out, that wasn't his fault."