Friday, November 15, 2013
Will Bills turn to C.J. Spiller as receiver?
By Mike Rodak
The chances of wide receiver Stevie Johnson playing Sunday don't look very good.
With the Buffalo Bills already without receiver Robert Woods (ankle) for Sunday's game against the New York Jets, the question becomes: Who will catch passes from EJ Manuel?
On Thursday, coach Doug Marrone was asked if the Bills will look to add either of their practice squad receivers -- Cordell Roberson or Tommy Streeter -- to their 53-man roster.
"We looked at that, but no, we're not going to go that direction," Marrone said.
Instead, the Bills will rely on their four healthy wide receivers for the game: T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, and Marcus Easley.
"Obviously T.J. and Marquise have played quite a bit. We have Hogan. Easley played last week. He's done a nice job, played a bunch in the preseason," Marrone said. "We have three tight ends that have been active. We have two fullbacks that are active. One of them, Evan [Rodriguez] can really run well. So we have other options for us to go to."
Marrone's assessment of the group is fair, but it's also worth noting that Manuel's options include running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
In fact, Jackson has caught 31 passes this season, third-most on the team, and has been targeted 44 times, more than Graham, who has been targeted 35 times.
What stands out, however, is Spiller's production as a receiver. He's been targeted just 22 times and has gained just 86 yards on his 19 receptions. Of the 38 NFL running backs who have been targeted at least 20 times this season, Spiller's 4.53 yards per catch ranks 37th, better than only Houston's Ben Tate.
For Spiller, it's almost a complete turnaround from last season, when he ranked second among NFL running backs with 10.67 yards per reception. Only New England's Danny Woodhead (11.15 yards per reception) was more productive.
Overall, Spiller is on pace for 30 receptions, which would be the lowest since his rookie season, when he had 24. He's also on pace for 138 receiving yards, which would be a career low.
"I never really came into the season with high expectations of being called upon in the passing game, because I knew we had a lot of play makers at the wide receiver position," Spiller said. "So I probably knew my role would be diminished a little bit."
On Sunday, the Bills could be without a pair of those play-makers at receiver, which could open the door for an increased role for Spiller in the passing game.