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More touches per game for Spiller?

7/15/2014

According to the Bills' official website, C.J. Spiller is likely to touch the ball 20 times per game "if the offense is operating at peak efficiency."

That sounds wonderful in theory, and no one can argue Spiller's versatility, explosiveness and ability to take over a game, but I just don't trust that he can hold up to such volume.

There are few players in the league like Spiller. He is capable of aligning all over the formation and could quickly become EJ Manuel's best friend (along with Sammy Watkins, who not only is a deep threat, but also excels in the short game and after the catch). The Bills want to run a high-tempo offense with a lot of plays and a high percentage of runs. We could see more one-back sets with four wide receivers to spread the field with Manuel in the shotgun. That seems perfect for Spiller, and frankly it is. But what has he shown in his career to suggest that he can withstand that sort of punishment over the long haul?

There is an ownership change happening in Buffalo, and no one's job is safe. This regime went "all in" on draft day to move up for Watkins, even though it cost them a potentially high first-round pick next year. That could be another coaching staff's problem if the team doesn't win, so it's not a surprise to see Doug Marrone and Co. take a near-sighted approach to this season as a whole and feed Spiller as much as he can handle. While I don't feel that is the best long-term approach for the player or organization, featuring Spiller should make Manuel's transition smoother and create big plays for what looks to be a much-improved offense overall, at least in terms of players around Buffalo's second-year quarterback.

Spiller has played four seasons in the NFL and has missed only four games, but that doesn't tell the whole story, as he has often played through pain. In fact, an argument can be made that the Bills would have been wise to rest him more often, especially last season. He just isn't nearly as dangerous when he isn't at full speed. As he showed in 2012 when he averaged an amazing six yards per carry and 10.7 yards per reception, Spiller doesn't need a ton of touches to be highly effective. He just needs to be fresh and healthy, which is why I think Buffalo wisely traded for Bryce Brown on draft day and were reportedly interested in selecting Carlos Hyde in the draft.

Marrone has shown that he prefers a two-man backfield despite these latest rumors. Of course, Fred Jackson is up there in age and both Jackson and Spiller are free agents after this season, but despite what reports are coming out, I don't think the Bills would be wise to give Spiller such volume. Last season he was ineffective on a high percentage of runs and stopped behind the line of scrimmage far too often. Surprisingly, Spiller played 190 fewer snaps in 2012 than in 2103 and was far more effective touching the ball 250 times, which is between 15 and 16 touches per game. To me, that is about where the Bills should keep his pitch count.