Fred Jackson out, Jets wary of C.J. Spiller
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Darrelle Revis heard the news during practice, when word started trickling out of Western New York that Bills running back Fred Jackson had been ruled out for Sunday's AFC East contest.
"A big loss for them, a big loss," the Jets cornerback said Wednesday. "He's a major playmaker for those guys and a big part of their offense."
Nearly 40 percent of Buffalo's offensive attack to be precise. But the Bills are going to have to go without Jackson for their final six games because the fifth-year pro fractured his right fibula against the Dolphins last Sunday, forcing Buffalo to place him on season-ending injury reserve Wednesday.
Jackson, who'll be replaced by C.J. Spiller, is responsible for 1,376 of Buffalo's 3,464 offensive yards, rushing for 934 yards and six touchdowns, and catching 39 passes for 442 yards. He's the NFL's third-leading rusher, and ranks second in the league behind Chicago's Matt Forte in total yards from scrimmage. That shows how big a blow his loss will be for a team that's lost three straight and has been exposed after the Jets pounded them, 27-11, on Nov. 6.
"He's definitely our best offensive player," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "He's been our go-to guy all season long. Anytime we needed a play he's made it, and that's going to be a tough loss for us. He's such a good player. He's such a good all-around player, not just running the ball, but out of the backfield and pass protection.
"But we've got to go next man up and C.J., he's ready for this."
Spiller hasn't been used much at running back this season, seeing most of his action as a slot wide receiver or split out wide. So with him sliding into Jackson's starting role, the Bills may have to switch a few things up schematically.
Buffalo loves to use spread formations, employing five-wide looks to help get the ball to Jackson. They were setting up screen passes for Jackson, a tactic they could still try with Spiller. "We have to make some adjustments in some of our matchup stuff because you are essentially taking a wide receiver, a player with wide receiver ability, and putting him in the backfield," Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "So you can't really play him at times, and that's the one advantage it gives them -- he's both. So we have to be able to handle him when he's in the running back position and it will be a different matchup than if he goes out at wideout."
Spiller, who's run for 115 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts and caught 15 passes for 82 yards, certainly has the Jets' attention, even if the second-year pro by way of Clemson only mustered 5 yards on two carries in last month's meeting versus the Jets in Orchard Park. "You are definitely concerned with Spiller's speed," Rex Ryan said.