Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said Wednesday that the Bills plan to give carries to running back C.J. Spiller "until he throws up," which indicated that after three seasons of splitting carries with Fred Jackson, Spiller will now be the "feature back" in Buffalo.
Spiller, who turns 26 next week, was the Bills' leading rusher last season. He was tied with the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson for an NFL-best 6.0 yard-per-carry average among qualified running backs, finishing with 1,244 yards on 207 carries.
Peterson may be the lone workhorse in the Vikings' backfield, but across the NFL, teams are generally opting for more of a backfield-by-committee approach.
The philosophy driving the trend is that NFL running backs have a short shelf life compared to players at other positions, and investing high draft picks or big-money contracts in running backs is risky business. The result is teams stocking their backfields with mid-round talent and avoiding large deals.
The Bills are one exception, having drafted Spiller ninth overall in 2010, and now apparently set to make him the centerpiece of their offense in his fourth season.
If they commit to that plan, it is worth taking a look at the other running backs on the Bills' roster, some of whom could see less of a role in the offense this season:
Fred Jackson (32 years old, 7th season)
2012 stats: 10 games (8 starts), 115 attempts, 437 yards (3.8 average), 3 touchdowns, 5 fumbles
Quick take: Coming off a knee injury, Jackson could be used in goal line and short-yardage situations. Known as a powerful runner, Jackson could have a late-game role if the Bills' offense is able to tire defenses with their up-tempo approach.
Tashard Choice (28 years old, 5th season)
2012 stats: 12 games (0 starts), 47 attempts, 193 yards (4.1 average), 1 touchdown, 0 fumbles
Quick take: Spiller's workload could make Choice, a depth-level player, less important. He could be slated for fewer carries in 2013 than last season.
Zach Brown (24 years old, 1st season)
2012 stats: Was late-season addition to practice squad in 2012.
Quick take: Brown will have to carve a role on special teams to make the roster.
Drew Smith (23 years old, rookie)
2012 stats: 10 games, 195 attempts, 1,001 yards (5.1 average), 18 touchdowns -- at Albany
Quick take: Smith will likely be competing this preseason for a spot on the practice squad.
Kendall Gaskins (22 years old, rookie)
2012 stats: 11 games, 148 attempts, 604 yards (4.1 average), 16 touchdowns -- at Richmond
Quick take: At 238 pounds, Gaskins played fullback in college but projects as a running back in the NFL.