Fred Jackson’s return from injury gives sagging Bills a boost
The Buffalo Bills could use a lift, and running back Fred Jackson believes he’s capable of providing one.
With the Bills playoff hopes fading fast following two consecutive losses, the team captain and inspirational leader eagerly anticipates the chance to play after missing two of the past three games with a groin injury.
”We need all hands on deck,” Jackson said Monday, when the Bills returned from an extended weekend break since a 22-9 loss at Miami on Thursday.
”I need 100 percent for me to be out there and help my teammates,” Jackson said. ”I think they want me out there. I want to be out there. I want to try to make some plays and get this thing turned around.”
Buffalo (5-5) has run out of room for error in preparing to host its AFC East rival New York Jets (2-8) on Sunday.
It’s the first in what has essentially become a season-ending stretch of must-win games for the Bills who, because of tiebreaking formulas, rank 12th among the AFC’s 12 teams at 5-5 or better. That’s a big drop for Buffalo, which failed to ride the wave of momentum coming out of its bye week off by losing twice in five days, starting with a 17-13 loss to Kansas City on Nov. 9.
”Obviously, it’s a big hit. We lost to two (teams) that we’ll be fighting for position with,” said Jackson, who saw limited playing time against the Chiefs before aggravating his groin injury in practice last week. ”But there’s always a chance. And anytime you have a chance, you’re going to show up and fight. That’s what I expect out of the guys in this locker room. And that’s what I’m definitely going to do.”
Jackson was hurt in a 17-16 win over Minnesota on Oct. 19. It was the same game the Bills lost co-starting running back C.J. Spiller, who broke his collarbone and isn’t eligible to play until Week 16.
Jackson’s return has the potential of instilling a spark to a sluggish offense that has managed five field goals in seven-plus quarters since scoring a touchdown on its opening drive against Kansas City.
The red-zone production has been even worse. The Bills have scored one touchdown in their last nine drives inside an opponent’s 20, dating to the second half of a 43-23 win at the Jets on Oct. 26.
Buffalo now ranks dead last in the NFL in red-zone efficiency by having scored just 14 touchdowns in 36 chances.
Both of Jackson’s touchdowns this season have come from inside the red zone.
Just as important, he is the team’s most complete running back.
Despite missing parts of the past four games, Jackson still ranks second on the team with 37 catches. His combined 549 yards from scrimmage (249 rushing, 300 receiving) account for more than 17 percent of Buffalo’s offense. Jackson is also the team’s most dependable backfield blocker in pass situations.
The mere mention of Jackson’s return raised hope among his teammates.
”Obviously, you get a captain back, and a player of his caliber, it’s definitely going to help,” quarterback Kyle Orton said.
Added center Eric Wood: ”Freddie, being as vital as he is, could be big for us.”
Buffalo is in the midst of a 14-season playoff drought, the NFL’s longest active streak.
Jackson has spent all nine NFL seasons in Buffalo, and wants to make a difference after being part of several second-half collapses.
”We’ve got to play better, bottom line,” Jackson said. ”Plain and simple, if we don’t do that, we’ll be looking at another season that we’re wondering what happened.”
NOTES: Starting CB Leodis McKelvin on the season-ending reserve/injured list after he hurt his ankle against Miami. … To fill his roster spot, Buffalo signed free agent DB Bacarri Rambo, who played 13 games with Washington before being cut after Week 2 this season. … Buffalo also signed cornerback Brandon Smith to its practice squad.