Will C.J. Spiller, Sammy Watkins provide a jolt for Bills' return game?

Buffalo looking at playmaking possibilities after mediocre return showing last season

Buffalo Bills C.J.Spiller (28) runs against the Miami Dolphins Philip Wheeler (52) during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

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Buffalo Bills C.J.Spiller (28) runs against the Miami Dolphins Philip Wheeler (52) during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Back when Clemson hit the jackpot with its skill-position upgrade at running back and wide receiver, the Tigers' return game reaped the benefits with a string of long touchdowns.

The Buffalo Bills are hoping for the same spark from two of the players who ignited the Tigers' return game.

While C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins won't go into preseason camp at the forefront of the Bills' return crew, look for them to get preseason opportunities to turn the depth chart on its head.

Marquise Goodman, whose 100-yard plus return last preseason earned him the job, is again penciled in as the Bills' top kickoff return man.

T.J. Graham and Leodis McKelvin are other possibilities.

But with the Bills looking to improve on some of the NFL's worst return statistics - 29th in kickoff return average and 27th in starting field position (20.7 yard line) - all options are open, including Spiller and Watkins.

Buffalo's overall skill position depth and talent upgrade - like Clemson's - affords the opportunity to utilize star playmakers in the return game.

According to the Bills' official webite, Spiller "was a dynamic return man in his college days at Clemson and saw some return work early in his career with the Bills. Now that opportunity may resurface. Spiller was returning kicks in practice in the spring, and at least for now it appears he’s part of the competition.

He hasn’t returned a kick or punt for the Bills since 2011, but perhaps with more depth at running back Buffalo is more willing to put Spiller out there in the hopes that his game breaking ability can provide a shot in the arm to the kick return unit."

As for Watkins, the Bills plan is to put the ball in his hands in as many ways as possible.

The team's website blogger notes that while Watkins did get many return opportunities in the spring, that was primarily because of his concentration on learning the Bills' wide receiver position.

"Watkins returned 60 kicks in his college career and averaged almost 23 yards a return (22.9) with one touchdown to his credit," points out BuffaloBills.com. "No one needs to explain the elusive weapon that Watkins can be with the ball in his hands, but will the primary need to be a difference maker on offense pull him from this competition?"

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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Comments » 1

brownrobert402#293681 writes:

With C.J. and Sammy standing down around the 5 yard line on a kickoff, it's a lose lose for the kicking team of their opponent. And it doesn't take an upper level degree in Logic to figure out this is a good thing for the Bills. Who do you kick it to? Both are subject to stop running when they cross the goal line at the other end of the field. Watching the Bills this year should be very interesting and extremely exciting with our Clemson guys as the catalyst of the Bills offense. Can't wait to see them together.

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