Spiller ready for lead role with Bills

Ronald C. Modra/ Getty Images

C.J. Spiller expects to be utilized more in the Bills' new West Coast-style offense.

After a strong 2012 season, running back C.J. Spiller is poised to emerge as a dominant force in the Buffalo Bills’ backfield in 2013.

Last season, Spiller had 207 carries for 1,244 yards and six touchdowns, finishing eighth in the NFL in rushing. Among qualifying running backs, Spiller led the NFL in yards per carry, matching Adrian Peterson with 6.0 yards per carry. A solid receiver as well, Spiller pulled in 43 catches for 459 yards, sixth most among running backs. His 10.7 yards per catch was second only to Danny Woodhead among running backs.

The decline of Fred Jackson

Jackson is 32 entering this season. After going down with a knee injury in 2011, Jackson rushed for only 437 yards in 2012, averaging a career-low 3.8 yards per carry, before sustaining his second season-ending knee injury.

The Bills’ offense was more effective when Spiller was on the field. In 2012, the Bills converted 47 percent of third downs with Spiller on the field and only 34 percent with Jackson on the field. The average gain of 6.5 yards per play with Spiller on the field outpaced the average gain of 4.8 yards per play with Jackson on the field. Former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a Total QBR of 58.0 with Spiller on the field compared to 39.0 with Jackson.

Doug Marrone’s offense

In all four seasons with Doug Marrone, Syracuse ran the ball more than they passed it. In 2012, the Orange finished with almost 43 rushes per game, which ranked 23rd in the FBS. Even when the Orange struggled to move the ball on the ground, Marrone did not give up on the running game. In the seven games Syracuse had less than the FBS average of 4.4 yards per carry, Marrone’s team ran the ball almost 36 times a game.

According to Marrone, all signs point toward an increased use of running backs in Buffalo, the Associated Press reported in late May. Likewise, Spiller told NFL Total Access correspondent Lindsay Rhodes that he expects to be utilized as much as possible in the new offense.

Marrone’s new fast-paced, West Coast-style offense will likely put the Bills in the shotgun more often. In 2012, Spiller led all running backs in rushing yards from the shotgun and averaged 5.4 yards per carry, well above the NFL average for his position. If the Bills develop their read-option set and run more plays from the pistol, this would benefit Spiller as well. He averaged 9.4 yards per carry from the pistol in 2012.