A chance to flourish: C.J. Spiller embraces expanded role in Bills' new offense

Website describes Spiller's former part-time status as 'a brutal crime'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talks with former Tiger running back C.J. Spiller before the Orange-White Spring Football Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talks with former Tiger running back C.J. Spiller before the Orange-White Spring Football Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

The name and uniform haven't changed, but that doesn't mean that C.J. Spiller won't be playing for a different team this fall.

The Buffalo Bills have undergone a complete offensive overhaul since last season.

Chan Gailey is out, and former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone is in, and has hired his right-hand man at Syracuse, Nathaniel Hackett, as his offensive coordinator.

General manager Buddy Nix, the man who brought Spiller to Buffalo, stepped down and has been replaced by Doug Whaley, a younger man with 10 years of NFL management experience and a background as a Wall Street stock broker.

Over the winter, the Bills released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had just finished the third year of a six-season, $59 million contract that was, from the start, widely panned by NFL analysts.

Then in April, the Bills drafted Florida State's EJ Manuel as their quarterback of the future.

What does all of that mean for Spiller?

Only time will tell for sure.

But there are strong indications that the former Clemson star will get a chance to prove himself as an every-down, all-situation back.

Gailey routinely took Spiller off the field in short-yardage and red-zone situations, while splitting carries at other spots in the field.

Despite his part-time status, Spiller has excelled, earning Pro Bowl honors last season while leading all NFL running backs in yards per carry.

Describing the team's utilization of Spiller as a 'brutal crime' second only to its long-term commitment to Fitzpatrick, the website Grantland.com points out even more telling statistics than Spiller's yards-per-carry numbers:

"According to Football Outsiders, Spiller led all running backs, including Adrian Peterson, with a DVOA of 27.5 percent. His success rate of 55 percent (a measure based on the yards needed in any given down, distance, and score situation) was the best for any running back with 100 carries that didn’t play with Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Despite having only 207 carries, according to Pro Football Focus, he was tied sixth in the league with 16 runs of 15 or more yards (everyone ahead of him had at least 285 carries), and he led the league by a wide, wide margin in the site’s Elusive Rating (a measure based on missed tackles and yards gained after contact per touch). No back in the league, per touch, was better."

Marrone has indicated that if Spiller is the team's best back, he'll get ample opportunity to show it.

"My philosophy's always been if someone starts off and they're running well, keep feeding them the ball," Marrone told the Buffalo News earlier this spring.

For his part, Spiller welcomes the opportunity for an expanded, multi-faceted role in the Bills' attack.

"We’re going to try to use me as much as possible and not let teams just get one bead on me saying I can just run the ball," Spiller told NFL.com. "I’ll be utilized in space, in the slot or whatever the case may be to try to help us find those mismatches and take advantage of them."

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