The Buffalo Bills have sustained several injuries to their deep group of players at running back, giving way to youth further down on the depth chart. Fred Jackson is sidelined with a hamstring injury while Anthony Dixon is also out with a calf ailment. Even LeSean McCoy has missed practice time.
In Jackson and Dixon's absence, Bryce Brown and rookie Karlos Williams have been asked to step up. For Brown, he's done just the opposite, fumbling three times in camp, one of which came during the team's scrimmage on Saturday. It was clear Rex Ryan took notice.
"The fumble was disappointing, to put it mildly," Ryan said via ESPN. "Because he was having a nice day, and then it was like ... every single team is going to be attacking that football. And you just can't have it. I don't care how many -- if you carry it 300 times, you have to hold on to that sucker. And that's what we're counting on as a team."
The quickest way to find yourself on the bench as a running back is to put the ball on the ground. Unsurprisingly, his fumbling issues have led Brown to tumble down the depth chart. In his place, the Bills will look to Williams to play a bigger role.
Brown has proved he's a talented back, but has had a fumbling issue dating back to his days with the Eagles. Williams is getting more work but likely still falls behind at least Jackson and McCoy when the games start. If injuries continue to be an issue, though, Williams could be a name to remember.
Bills coach Rex Ryan announced Friday that Jackson would miss a couple of weeks of practice with a hamstring injury. Hamstring injuries are notoriously tricky to recover from, especially ones that are serious enough to force a player out of action for weeks. The Bills have Bryce Brown and Boobie Dixon behind LeSean McCoy at running back, although Jackson had been taking the No. 2 team reps in camp thus far.
Running backs coach Anthony Lynn said he’d like to cut Jackson’s snaps/workload in half, so barring an injury to LeSean McCoy, don’t expect F-Jax to rack up 14-plus touches per game like he did in 2014. However, even if we slice his PPG in half (to 6.7 per game in PPR formats) and extrapolate over a full, 16-game season, we end up with RB4-type numbers. He has upside from there if anything happens to LeSean McCoy. We have a tough time believing that the Bills would cut Jackson after his versatile 1,026-yard season in 2014.
Even if Ryan Mathews was No. 2 to DeMarco Murray's No. 1, the distribution of carries is unlikely to be as disparate as it was with LeSean McCoy over the previous two seasons. McCoy logged more than 64 percent of the Eagles' carries. The closest a backup got to him was Bryce Brown's 15 percent of rushes in 2013.
Chip Kelly hasn't put a number on how he'll divvy up the touches. Darren Sproles is also part of the equation. But a 50-30-15 split among the top three running backs would be an early guess.
We currently project a 57-27-8 split among Murray, Mathews and Sproles, and it results in a lower-than-average ranking of Murray, at least in PPR formats. If it is indeed a 50-30-15 split, then Murray probably won't provide good return at his current draft position.
Bills RB Bryce Brown – who played in just seven games, rushing 36 times for 126 yards in 2014 – GM Doug Whaley said he’s got a “clean slate” with a new coaching staff led by Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
“We’re excited to see him come in with a clean slate like everybody else and perform like we think he should,” Whaley said.
It doesn't sound as if Whaley is particularly excited about Brown's prospects if C.J. Spiller walks this offseason.
Friday, December 19, 2014, 6:02pm
Bills RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder, probable) took limited practice reps all week and is probable for Week 16. Spiller should serve as Fred Jackson’s primary backup, but don’t expect a huge workload. Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon have combined for 12.0 touches in the last four games, so that would seem to be Spiller’s ceiling in his first game back from injury.
He was practicing with his teammates on Wednesday, much as he had for each of the past two weeks. The only difference now is he’s been medically cleared for contact. C.J. Spiller has not yet been added to the 53-man roster from his I-R Designated to return status, but it’s anticipated that will take place later in the week.
Bills head coach Doug Marrone liked the way Spiller performed in practice Wednesday.
“I’m not going to sit up here and see he didn’t look good. He looked good, but he’s still working his way back into the football part of it,” Marrone said.
The Bills are still alive in the playoff hunt, but they'll need some help to make the postseason. If Spiller does play, he probably won't have a big role in his first game back, though he could take over most of the touches that Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown have been getting in the last few weeks. They have combined for 12.0 touches in the last four weeks, so we would expect that would be Spiller's ceiling with Fred Jackson continue to carry the load as the team's primary back.
Marrone did not commit to having Spiller, who has been on injured reserve with a designation to return, play in Sunday's game at the Oakland Raiders.
"I'd like to see more participation before we make that decision," he said.
Spiller returned to practice on Dec. 3 after missing six weeks with a broken collarbone. The Bills had until Dec. 24 to decide whether to place him on their 53-man roster. If Spiller plays, it would likely mean Bryce Brown loses playing time and the Bills ride with Spiller, Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon.
Fred Jackson will play in Week 12. He was questionable all week with a groin injury so it's possible he's limited against the Jets, who rank sixth in allowing fantasy points to RBs. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown will likely factor in the game plan, but with the workload in question and a tough matchup, no one is really considered a safe play in this situation.
(New York conducted a walk-through on Saturday)
T Oday Aboushi (shoulder), LB Antwan Barnes (knee), G Willie Colon (knee), WR T.J. Graham (neck), LB David Harris (shoulder), RB Chris Ivory (shoulder), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (calf), RB Chris Johnson (knee), C Nick Mangold (shoulder), LB Trevor Reilly (knee), WR Greg Salas (wrist), QB Geno Smith (right shoulder), CB Darrin Walls (calf)
DE Jarius Wynn (knee)
CB Ron Brooks (groin), RB Fred Jackson (groin)
K Dan Carpenter (right groin), WR Marquise Goodwin (ankle), WR Chris Hogan (hip), DE Manny Lawson (ankle), QB Kyle Orton (toe), RB Frank Summers (neck), G Kraig Urbik (shoulder), WR Sammy Watkins (groin)
Bills RB Fred Jackson is questionable. He's indicated he's going to play, but with the game now Monday night he becomes a bit more risky. It's not a great matchup against the Jets rush defense, but either way owners will need to be prepared just in case Jackson doesn't go. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown would at least be serviceable backups if needed. Also for the Bills, Watkins and Orton are probable.
Fred Jackson is inactive as expected. Multiple reports say that Bryce Brown is starting at RB for the Bills, which is encouraging news for those owners depending on him this week. In the last two weeks, Anthony Dixon has out-carried him 31 to 14, but the ratio was 9:7 in Week 10 and Brown caught six passes against the Chiefs, out-touching Dixon 13 to 9. Brown looked explosive and particularly good in the passing game, so he’s a low-end RB2 in standard and a solid RB2 in PPR formats.
With Goodwin out, Mike Williams returns to the active roster.
One wonders why the Bills let Fred Jackson play in Week 10 with a pair of capable running backs in Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown and a short week in Week 11. Regardless, it looks like Dixon and Brown will split the load against the Dolphins tonight. It's not a great matchup, but it's not a terrible matchup, either. We'll update our rankings shortly.
It's a mediocre matchup against a good Dolphins defense, but Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown would become Sneaky Starts if Jackson can't play tonight. If he does suit up, it's shaping up as a murky three-headed committee. For a look at how the Bills divvied up their touches in Week 10, be sure to check the RBBC Report.
Monday, November 10, 2014, 9:50am
Playing in his 100th career game, the gritty and well-respected Bills RB Fred Jackson ran just three times in the Bills' 17-13 loss to the Chiefs. He had been listed as questionable on the injury report after returning to practice Wednesday.
Was there ever a chance he wouldn't play?
"No," Jackson said. "I knew Monday. I was confident in everything I had done that I would be able to compete. Unfortunately it wasn't enough but I knew I had the ability to come out and play."
Jackson was more productive in the passing game (four catches for 39 yards) than in the running game, where the Bills leaned more on Anthony Dixon (nine carries) and Bryce Brown (seven carries). We knew Jackson would be limited coming into this game, but there's a good chance his touches increase next game now that he got his feet wet. Brown also had a critical fumble that ended up out of the end zone for a touchback.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 6:08pm
Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Jackson’s status will be more clear later in the week, once his groin has had a chance to respond to his early return to practice. If he plays, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown would take a back seat to the far more established Jackson.
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