Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson epitomizes what it means to be a blue-collar football player. Undrafted out of Division III Coe College, Jackson worked his way through three years in two different indoor football leagues and NFL Europe until he got a call from the Bills in 2006. Since making it to the league, he’s been splitting time and touches with first-rounders Marshawn Lynch and CJ Spiller. In his six NFL seasons, Jackson has averaged 190 touches from scrimmage per season, a very meager total for a solid NFL running back.
Now Jackson will be 32 before next season starts, and even though he hasn’t had as much wear and tear from the NFL, he’s still suffered a couple of significant injuries. Looking at his performance from last season, anyone can see that his statistics (437 yards on 115 carries, 3 TD, 4 fumbles) have started to take the over-30 tumble that so many running backs endure.
The challenge for new Bills head coach Doug Marrone is to figure out a way to keep both Jackson and Spiller involved in the offense. Spiller was a much more electrifying option than Jackson last year, leading the NFL with a 6.0 yards per carry average on 207 carries. Jackson is open to whatever Marrone has to offer for the offense, and as he has shown throughout his career he’s more than willing to split carries, according to Marc Sessler of NFL Around the League.
“If that’s what it is, us sharing reps, we have no problems with that,” Jackson told WGR-AM on Friday night, via the team’s official site. “I don’t have a problem with that. I’m looking forward [to] going out there and making the best of my opportunities whenever I get on the field, I’m sure C.J.’s the same way. Whatever we can do to get a win, we’re going to do, that’s what we’re about.”
If Marrone’s offense at Syracuse from last season is any indication of what he will run with the Bills, both Jackson and Spiller should be happy. Junior Jerome Smith, playing Jackson’s role, got 227 carries for 1,171 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the other hand, the 5’9″, 181-pound Prince-Tyson Gulley, playing more of Spiller’s game, got 158 carries for 830 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Spiller will probably end up being the lead horse in this attack, as he will be 26 at next season’s start. But Jackson will work his way into a role where he can contribute. He’s been doing that his whole career.
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Down and Distance Columnist Joe Ray – @jpray_SK