Bills RB Jackson reclaims starting job

Running back Fred Jackson doesn’t have time to question the

reasoning behind why the Buffalo Bills traded Marshawn Lynch to

Seattle – though he was aware a deal had been in the works.

What matters to Jackson is providing the Bills’ sputtering

offense a sense of identity now that he’s reclaimed the starting

job he had in taking over for Lynch midway through last season.

”That’s the business side of it, that’s what they handle

upstairs,” Jackson said, before practice Wednesday, a day after

Lynch was traded to the Seahawks in exchange for draft picks. ”All

we can do is come out here on the field and play with the guys we

have. We have to focus on going out and winning football

games.”

And that’s been the problem for the winless Bills, who are going

through another round of upheaval in preparing to host Jacksonville

(2-2) on Sunday.

Last week Buffalo was shuffling quarterbacks after the team cut

former starter Trent Edwards, who has since signed with the Jaguars

and will serve as the team’s backup this weekend. This week its

running backs, as the Bills came to the conclusion that three is,

in fact, a crowd.

Lynch’s departure frees up more carries for both Jackson and

rookie first-round pick C.J. Spiller, who’s yet to provide the

spark he showed in scoring three touchdowns this preseason.

In his first opportunity to discuss the trade, coach Chan Gailey

wouldn’t go provide details into the timing of the move even though

Lynch had first asked to be dealt well before the Bills drafted

Spiller.

”I don’t get into sooner or later, there’s a lot of things that

go into decisions like this,” he said. ”You’re trying to do

what’s best for your team. And it worked out that a trade was made,

and we’re fortunate we have two good players that can carry the

load for us the rest of the way.”

Gailey said he’s leaning on Jackson because, as a fourth-year

player, he has more experience. And he intends to get Spiller more

involved. Spiller has scored a touchdown receiving and another on a

kickoff return, but has only 49 yards rushing on 14 carries.

Lynch had received the bulk of the work in starting the past

three games, and led the team with 37 carries – three more than

Jackson and Spiller had combined – for 164 yards. That left Jackson

and Spiller splitting limited playing time because the Bills

offense was either having difficulty sustaining drives or forced to

play catch-up by going primarily with a passing attack.

Not much has worked on an offense that’s failed to generate 230

yards in three of its four games, and averaging 13.5 first

downs.

The Bills all but bottomed out in a 38-14 loss to the Jets last

weekend. It was a game in which quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led

the team with 74 yards rushing, Buffalo went 0 for 10 in third-down

conversions and finished with 19:31 in time of possession.

Enter Jackson, who had a breakout season last year in finishing

with a team-leading and career-best 1,062 yards rushing.

Jackson learned of his promotion upon arriving for team meetings

Wednesday and shortly after he wished Lynch well with his new team

during a phone conversation.

”Now it’s my time to stand up here and try to make plays,”

Jackson said. ”It’s going to be a challenge. It always is, but

it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.”

The trade didn’t catch Jackson by surprise because he said Lynch

had kept him up to date on the progress of trade talks over the

past few weeks.

Spiller, selected ninth overall out of Clemson, was surprised by

the move, saying he thought a three-back rotation had a chance to

work. Spiller, however, acknowledged he’s having difficulty finding

his niche.

”I’m still unsure what my role is,” Spiller said. ”It’s kind

of disappointing that you don’t really know. But at the same time,

you know what you can bring to this team. I stay encouraged by

that. So you just wait your turn and try to help the team any way

you can.”

Fitzpatrick wasn’t surprised by the trade, given how the offense

has sputtered and the team is winless.

”Well, there’s never a dull moment in the NFL, especially when

you’re losing,” Fitzpatrick said. ”It’s just one of those things

we had talked about, crowded backfield and trying to get everybody

touches. Hopefully, it works out for Marshawn, and hopefully, it

works out well for us.”