Mario "Game" Granata
Now, as many of you know, if you have followed a lot of the Hashtag Sports Articles, there is a lot of speculation that goes into many of the comments. Some of them end up coming to fruition, as noted in an article on May 5th of this year, saying that if the Bills somehow were able to get Sammy Watkins, the Buffalo Bills might show Stevie Johnson the door. Unpopular as that move might have been, fear of the unknown is even more evident for the fans of the Buffalo Bills. But some moves that have taken place, might just be just as alarming looking down the road for the Bills' offensive starters.
Let me be clear on a point right now: I love the Buffalo Bills. I have been a fan of this team for quite sometime, and looking at the recent moves by the 'Architect' Doug Whaley, it is clear that the Bills are headed into unknown territory, as many of the moves he has made are described as 'Bold' or 'Risky'. This team has been in the basement of the AFC East for the last decade and a half, and if the Bills want to change their fortunes, some moves that are made are going to seem unpopular and unheard of, at the time, but might end up benefiting the team in the future. Enter the current running back situation for the Bills.
CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, are without a doubt, one of the more productive tandems in the National Football League, and even through an injury ridden 2013, the two backs were contributors to the 2nd best rushing attack in the league. So, why do you ask, do the Bills sign Anthony Dixon from San Francisco and trade for Bryce Brown? Well, looking ahead in the years to come, and at the cap numbers, of course, the Bills might be headed in another direction, and this may seem a little unsettling to the Buffalo faithful.
Fred Jackson: As it stands right now, Fred Jackson is the elder statesmen of the running back core, and just as Stevie Johnson entrenched himself to the Bills fans, Freddy might have been, even more so, due to his Division III background, and his never-say-die attitude. However, when the 2015 off-season hits, Jackson will be turning 35, and although he didn't come into the league until he was 26, the value of running backs in the league isn't what it used to be, and we all know what happens to backs when they hit 30, let alone 35. Jackson has touched the ball over 1,400 times in the NFL and that pounding, even on the most physically gifted players, can begin to take its toll, so the Bills fans might be saying goodbye to another fan favorite come this next off-season, I am sorry to say. Although, I love him, the 2014 season might be Freddy's farewell tour in Buffalo.
CJ Spiller: I have long compared the talent of CJ Spiller to Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson (of his 2000 yard season) and while his ability might be on par with these two explosive backs, he only had, really, one great year with the Bills and that was in 2012. A lot of speculation could be made, and the numbers dictate that of the 1,200+ yards that CJ amassed in that season, 800 of that was in the second half of games, when the Bills were down by 10 or more points. Of course teams are going to seceded the run and use the clock to their advantage. That is not on CJ, but with the regime change last year, and being injured, it didn't seem that CJ was able to full grasp the offense, and who could blame him? With the revolving door at quarterback, it's hard for any player to gain consistency. That being said, and with the money that CJ will probably be asking after the 2015 season, one would be ignorant to ignore that he too might not be with the Bills. Explosive, game breaking, and a game changer, CJ Spiller, a Clemson product, because of the current market in the NFL for running backs, might be on his way out as well.
Bryce Brown: The Fantasy Football pickup of 2012 (for a couple of weeks), Brown is bigger than Spiller, and can be a major player in the Bills offense for his ability to run between the tackles. He doesn't have the speed that CJ does (but then again, who does) but he is willing to run inside for the tough yards, and being 3 years younger than Spiller, with a fraction of the cost to the Bills, might win out as the eventual starter, depending on how fast he can pick up Hackett's offensive philosophy. He has proven that in the NFL he can play, the only question that remains, can he do it on a consistent basis, and with the deal that the Bills were able to acquire him for (2 years, 1.3 million) the numbers game might have him as the favorite moving forward.
Anthony Dixon: The expendable asset from the San Francisco 49ers is a big back (6'1" 233) and will offer something to the Bills that they haven't had in a while: a short yardage back. I know, I know, Freddy has been the man to fill that position, but like I said earlier, with the 7 year age difference, youth might trump experience here, as well as the contract of Dixon (3 years 3.4 million estimated). Dixon wasn't used to his full capability in San Francisco, and although the Bills called up Ronnie Wingo last season, he didn't provide that short yardage presence that they Bills needed, and was relegated to special teams in his limited appearances.
When I think about the possibility that the Buffalo Bills, starting the 2015 season could have Brown and Dixon as their starting backfield, I wince for a moment, but the value and the age of the backs almost always wins out in the current NFL. Also, with the age of Jackson, and the money that Spiller will eventually ask for, the youth and cheap price tag of both Brown and Dixon could be the deciding factor in what the Bills do in the upcoming seasons. Jackson and Spiller have over 2,100 touches from the running back position compared to Brown and Dixon who only have 350 combined. Although I love Spiller and Jackson, I unfortunately see the changes that the Bills are making, and the running backs might be next. Doesn't mean I won't wear 28 or 22 to the games if they are not on the team, because to me, they will always be fan favorites.