AFC East: Marshawn Lynch

Rodgers would love to reunite with Lynch

September, 15, 2010
There has been talk about the Buffalo Bills trading Marshawn Lynch since he finished last season second on the depth chart behind Fred Jackson.

Rumblings got louder throughout the offseason, when the Bills used the ninth draft choice on C.J. Spiller and Lynch declined to show up for most workouts.

Turns out, this week's opponents need a running back. The Green Bay Packers lost Ryan Grant for the year with an ankle injury, and their quarterback happens to be a huge Lynch fan.

Aaron Rodgers and Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop played with Lynch at the University of California. When Rodgers was asked Wednesday what his response would be if Green Bay's front office solicited his opinion about Lynch, the quarterback replied "Bring him on."

Rodgers isn't bothered by Lynch's track record of bad behavior. The NFL suspended Lynch for the first three games last year for multiple problems with the law.

"He's a great player," Rodgers said. "And any character issues the team might see, I think in a situation like that, and I think you've seen that with other players across the league, when you give a guy a change of scenery and a guy like that who feels he might have something to prove, and surround him with two guys, Bishop and myself who played with him, I think that can only help him feel comfortable and see a lot of production."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Greg A. Bedard blogged Rodgers' comments and added any trade would be "a long shot" and that "even a third-round pick would likely be too rich for [Packers general manager] Ted Thompson."

Earlier on Wednesday, I wrote about how the New England Patriots' decision to trade their former first-round back, Laurence Maroney, might impact the market for a potential Lynch trade.

Bills coach Chan Gailey on Wednesday reiterated his preference to keep Lynch.

"Opinions vary of whether it's too many" running backs in Buffalo's backfield, Gailey said. "In preseason, we didn't have too many. I know Green Bay wishes they had one more.

"Everybody's got opinions on what's right. We feel that having the three that we have right now is a very good situation for us. We've got to continue to get better with each one of them and see how their roles play out as the year goes on. This is a situation in the NFL where you can't have too many good running backs."

Does Maroney trade impact Lynch?

September, 15, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- If the New England Patriots can trade Laurence Maroney, then why can't the Buffalo Bills trade Marshawn Lynch?

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch rushed for just 13 yards on three carries in the season opener against Miami.
That was a question posed to Bills coach Chan Gailey on Wednesday.

There are parallels to each situation. Maroney, a 2006 first-round draft choice, was on the outs in a crowded New England backfield. Lynch, a 2007 first-round draft choice, hasn't stood out in Buffalo's backfield.

The Patriots dealt Maroney and a sixth-round draft choice to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round draft choice Tuesday.

The Bills probably could get similar value out of Lynch but have decided to keep him on the roster with Fred Jackson and rookie C.J. Spiller.

"Opinions vary of whether it's too many" running backs in Buffalo's backfield, Gailey said. "In preseason, we didn't have too many. I know Green Bay wishes they had one more.

"Everybody's got opinions on what's right. We feel that having the three that we have right now is a very good situation for us. We've got to continue to get better with each one of them and see how their roles play out as the year goes on. This is a situation in the NFL where you can't have too many good running backs."

How the situations differ is that Lynch has been more statistically productive than Maroney and has two years left on his contract, whereas Maroney is in the final year of his contract and likely would have been gone via free agency after the year.

"We felt like it was the best thing to do for our football team," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call. "He's done a lot of things for us in four years. He came in as a young player and improved a lot. He worked hard, and I have a lot of respect for Laurence. We just thought it was the best thing for our team right now to move on from that."

The Bills have invested more in Lynch, a 12th overall draft pick. An NFL source told me in training camp the Bills' front office was wary of dealing Lynch just for the sake of unloading him because there's a good chance he would go elsewhere and post numbers much more impressive than whatever the Bills got in return.

Halftime observations from Dolphins-Bills

September, 12, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Some quick first-half thoughts from Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins lead the Buffalo Bills 10-3 at the break:
  • Miami's big-ticket newcomers, receiver Brandon Marshall and linebacker Karlos Dansby, have influenced the game greatly. Marshall has six receptions for 44 yards. Dansby has been credited unofficially with five tackles and a sack to end Buffalo's opening possession.
  • Dolfans better hope this isn't a regular occurrence. With about four minutes to go until halftime, Brandon Marshall broke free behind cornerback Leodis McKelvin. Chad Henne undrethrew Marshall, who dropped what should have been about a 40-yard gain.
  • Henne is 13 of 18 for 128 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.
  • Trent Edwards is 6 of 10 for 35 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.
  • After talking up the fact he had three starting-caliber running backs, Bills coach Chan Gailey opened the game intent to pass, with a no-tight end, four-receiver set (counting rookie C.J. Spller) and Fred Jackson in the backfield. Fans booed the Bills' offense with 5:22 left in the first quarter.
  • The Bills didn't emphasize the run until the second quarter, and it worked. On one drive, Marshawn Lynch had a 15-yard run, and Jackson had a 9-yard run. The drive ended with a 51-yard Rian Lindell field goal.
  • Previous head coach Dick Jauron probably doesn't try to kick from that long. He never showed much faith in Lindell. Gailey obviously likes him and sent him on the field for an unsuccessful 63-yard try at the end of the first half.
  • Miami's Pro Bowl kicker, Dan Carpenter, missed from 46 yards late in the first half.
  • Buffalo has had problems stopping Miami on third and long. Miami has two third-and-10 plays.
  • Bills safety Jairus Byrd has been used in obvious passing situations only. The Pro Bowler has been slowed by his recurring groin injury.
  • There was a half-hearted union salute before kickoff. A smattering of players from either sideline imitated Thursday night's index-finger-in-the-air gesture from Thursday night's game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints in the Superdome.

Final Word: AFC East

September, 10, 2010
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 1:

[+] EnlargeChan Gailey
AP Photo/Paul SancyaThe Dolphins can't be sure what to expect from new Bills coach Chan Gailey.
Game plans will be an exercise in speculation. There's always a healthy dose of mystery heading into opening weekend. Teams withhold much of their playbooks throughout the preseason, creating wonder about how a new player will be utilized or how much coaching philosophies might have changed since the year before. Whoever guesses best likely will win Sunday's matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium. New Bills coach Chan Gailey has installed his offense and has switched the defense to a 3-4. The Bills also will show their full backfield for the first time. Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch return from injuries sustained in the preseason opener. With them out, rookie lightning bolt C.J. Spiller was limited to tailback duties. Where will Spiller line up now? Could be anywhere. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Gailey has been watching Denver Broncos film and trying to project how Nolan will use the Dolphins' roster.

The New England Patriots defense could be in for a long afternoon. The Patriots better have something up their sleeves for the Cincinnati Bengals. Otherwise, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens will have plenty to crow about. How will the Patriots contain the Bengals, who have placed an emphasis on their passing game? They added T.O. and drafted tight end Jermaine Gresham in the first round to help quarterback Carson Palmer. The Bengals have a strong enough rushing attack to keep any defense honest. Straight up, the Patriots appear to be at a disadvantage against the pass. The Patriots have the NFL's least experienced cornerbacks in Darius Butler and rookie Devin McCourty. As for a pass rush, the Patriots haven't had an effective one for a couple of years.

Don't dismiss the possibility of a big game from Darrelle Revis. The All-Pro cornerback had one week of practice to get ready for Monday night's opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He missed training camp and all four preseason games during his contract dispute. But that doesn't mean Revis will be rusty. Remember when the Jets signed cornerback Ty Law off the street in November 2008 for a Thursday night game against the Patriots? Law was 34, and they lined him up against Randy Moss. In the first half, Moss had zero receptions. He finished with three catches for 23 yards, and it took a pinpoint Matt Cassel rollout pass and a sensational sideline grab to beat Law for a 16-yard touchdown. Revis isn't 34 years old, and he wasn't signed off a free-agent scrap heap just before Thanksgiving. Revis kept himself in shape while AWOL, working out with a fellow Aliquippa, Pa., native named Ty Law.

If you have Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams on your fantasy team, start them. Heck, fourth-stringer Lex Hilliard might be a decent option against the Bills' run defense. The Bills' transition to a 3-4 defense hasn't made them noticeably better against the run, and they ranked 30th last year. The Bills were on the smallish side to begin with, and they're dealing with injuries at linebacker. Starting outside linebacker Reggie Torbor and backup inside linebacker Antonio Coleman won't play. Top inside linebacker reserve Kawika Mitchell was placed on season-ending injured reserve Friday. Newly acquired inside linebacker Akin Ayodele will be deactivated until he learns the system. On top of all those circumstances, Buffalo boasts a formidable secondary. Motivation for Miami to throw will be low.

Left guard, not quarterback, could turn out to be the Jets' weakest link. All eyes will be on Mark Sanchez on Monday night. So they might not see the peripheral blurs attacking him in the pocket. Left guard is among the chief concerns. The Jets featured a mimeograph offensive line over the past two seasons. That's 33 games of continuity for one of the best units in the league. But the Jets cut Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca, and his potential replacements have been shaky. Matt Slauson won the job by default over disappointing rookie Vladimir Ducasse. As head coach Rex Ryan acknowledged in "Hard Knocks," there's not a lot of faith in either of them to keep Sanchez off his back.

Bills not ready to make Spiller a workhorse

September, 8, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills rookie running back C.J. Spiller will enter the NFL as a starter.

That doesn't mean head coach Chan Gailey is ready to ride him hard.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Spiller
AP Photo/Mike GrollC.J. Spiller is expected to share carries with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.
"We have to be very smart about how we handle him, especially early in the year," Gailey said Wednesday at the team's facility. "It's incumbent upon us to make sure we don't throw him out there and work him [too much] early in the season."

Gailey added why being cautious with the dazzling playmaker shouldn't be a problem for Buffalo.

"If everything goes according to plan," Gailey said, "then that should never be an issue with the backs that we have."

The Bills have enviable backfield depth. In fact, player for player, they would stack up well against Sunday's opponent. The Bills will play the Miami Dolphins in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills also have Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, a pair of 1,000-yard rushers who should play Sunday after missing significant time with injuries in the preseason. Jackson and Lynch both are listed second on the depth chart, separated by a slash.

"At tailback, we got three starters," Gailey said. "Some people have trouble finding one. We have three. They make us rank them [on a depth chart]. They make us put 1, 2, 3 down there, but it's kind of like asking a parent 'Now, rank your children. Which one's the favorite?'

"They're all going to play. They're all starters. They're all going to be valuable members of our football team as the year goes on as I foresee it."

Injuries helped Spiller distance himself in the backfield competition over the summer, but seeing him break off scintillating runs it's plausible he would have won the job had everyone been healthy.

"He's shown in his few reps here that he's a very good player and has a chance to be a really good player for a long time," Gailey said. "The reason he's starting is because he's gotten more reps than anyone else at tailback and preseason and he's done a good job. If he hadn't done a good job, then we might have to rethink it. But he's earned the spot."

A look at first Bills, Dolphins depth charts

September, 6, 2010
Some depth charts aren't worth the paper they're printed on. As a season unfolds, injuries and position battles seldom are reflected accurately.

But I do think there is value to looking at the first roster breakdown of the preseason and the regular season.

With that in mind, I wanted to share the depth charts the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins distributed to the media Monday. They open the season against each other Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Most notable for Miami is that Jason Allen, generally viewed as a draft bust because he was selected 16th overall in 2006, has supplanted Sean Smith, last year's starter at right cornerback as a rookie.

Three rookies are in Miami's tentative 2010 opening-day lineup: right guard John Jerry, defensive end Jared Odrick and outside linebacker Koa Misi.

Newly acquired inside linebacker Bobby Carpenter is listed third behind Karlos Dansby and rookie Micah Johnson.

For the Bills, rookie C.J. Spiller is the first running back. Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch share the second slot with a slash between them and nobody listed third.

Bills coach Chan Gailey officially named Ryan Fitzpatrick the second-string quarterback and Brian Brohm third.

No other surprises on Buffalo's offense. Newly acquired tight end David Martin is second to Jonathan Stupar. Wide receiver Steve Johnson kept his status as the starter opposite Lee Evans. Roscoe Parrish and David Nelson are next in line.

Defensive end John McCargo, the 26th overall draft choice in 2006, is third on the left side behind Marcus Stroud and rookie Alex Carrington, a third-round pick.

Drayton Florence is ahead of Leodis McKelvin at right cornerback.

Buffalo's backfield more than a trio

September, 6, 2010
When considering the Buffalo Bills' backfield, three notable names can be rattled off.

They actually have a fourth, and new head coach Chan Gailey clearly values him.

Fullback Corey McIntyre is the forgotten man. You won't see many of his jerseys in Ralph Wilson Stadium. You won't draft him for your fantasy team. He had 12 touches last year. He has zero career touchdowns.

But the Bills appreciate his role as a lead blocker for their name guys.

Two NFL sources tell me the Bills have signed McIntyre to a two-year contract extension that will make him well-paid by fullback standards. His base salary for 2011 will be $950,000 and for 2012 will be $900,000.

For comparison sake, three-time Pro Bowl fullback Tony Richardson was scheduled to make $855,000 this year before the New York Jets cut him Sunday. The main reason he was released was he cost too much. Baltimore Ravens fullback Ray Rice, last year's Pro Bowler, will make a base salary of $470,000 this year and $550,000 next year.

McIntyre has helped the other running backs look good. He joined the Bills in 2008, the season Marshawn Lynch went to the Pro Bowl. He contributed to another 1,000-yard campaign last year with Fred Jackson.

In the preseason, he was the lead blocker on two of rookie C.J. Spiller's three rushing touchdowns.

Buffalo Bills cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Many believed the Bills could keep an extra running back, either veteran Chad Simpson or undrafted rookie Joique Bell, because Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson have been banged up. Simpson and Bell had strong summers, but the Bills cut them both. It's also notable the Bills have given up on 2008 second-round pick James Hardy. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound target never looked as good in action as he did in a uniform. He had injury problems, missing almost all of last year while recovering from a knee injury. He had sports hernia surgery in the offseason. Undrafted rookies outperformed him in camp.

No-brainers: There was no reason to keep rookie quarterback Levi Brown on the 53-man roster. He was drafted in the seventh round out of Troy as a long-term project. He's a safe bet to clear waivers and be added to the practice squad, but if another team snags him, no big loss. The move means the Bills likely will keep backups Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm, each of whom started for them last year.

What's next: On a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 10 years, few positions should be safe. That fact is emphasized by the number of undrafted rookies who made the squad. Bills general manager Buddy Nix will monitor the waiver wire and scrutinize all the veterans who've been dumped into the free-agent pool to see if there are any fits. The Bills will try to improve their offensive line depth and defensive front seven, especially.

AFC East preseason finale observations

September, 2, 2010
With all 32 teams wrapping up their preseason schedules Thursday night, here are a few quick hits from each AFC East game:

Detroit Lions 28, Buffalo Bills 23
  • Trent Edwards was efficient in his one quarter, completing all four of his passes for 66 yards, including a 50-yard strike down the left sideline to Lee Evans.
  • But because Edwards is so inconsistent and injury-prone, backup quarterback remains a big question mark. Ryan Fitzpatrick had the night off. Brian Brohm played less than two quarters and completed 7 of 15 passes for 78 yards and an interception that was tight end J.P. Foschi's fault.
  • Bills kicker Rian Lindell is in midseason form. He nailed field goals from 47, 50 and 41 yards. Remember when former coach Dick Jauron shied from letting Lindell try long kicks?
  • The Bills still have a tough decision to make at receiver. Chad Jackson had a game-high five catches for 59 yards, but hobbled off the field late. James Hardy, a 2008 second-round pick, was targeted seven times but made three catches for 23 yards in the second half.
New York Giants 20, New England Patriots 17
  • Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski is becoming a folk hero. He caught his fourth touchdown of the preseason, a 5-yard toss from Tom Brady on their first drive. The touchdown wasn't as eye-popping as Gronkowski's first two, but he did have a defender hanging on him.
  • New England's first-team defense looked shaky again. Eli Manning marched right through them, going 86 yards on nine plays for a touchdown to open the game. The Giants' starters picked up two more easy first downs on the second possession before punting.
  • Running back Laurence Maroney finally got some action after being a bystander the previous two games: nine carries for 32 yards. Uninspiring. For the record, Fred Taylor started the game.
  • Rookie Devin McCourty bounced back from an awful performance in the previous game, and that's a good sign with veteran Leigh Bodden sidelined for the season. McCourty played only two series but made three tackles and had a pass defensed.
New York Jets 21, Philadelphia Eagles 17
  • Rookie running back Joe McKnight had a rough preseason. He lost his third fumble, and this one was returned 64 yards for an Eagles touchdown. Rex Ryan said McKnight will make the roster and be deactivated until he proves himself in practice.
  • Had the Jets not used a fourth-round draft choice on McKnight, he'd be gone. He was outplayed by Chauncey Washington and Danny Woodhead. Washington ran 12 times for 56 yards, including a long of 22 yards. Woodhead had 12 carries for 45 yards and a 14-yard touchdown.
  • Mark Brunell had an efficient game: 11-of-17 for 118 yards and touchdown passes to Santonio Holmes and Jeff Cumberland.
  • Holmes had a busy night in what will be his last action for a month. He had four catches for 97 yards. His touchdown traveled 51 yards and came in the fourth quarter. Probably not fair to do to Philly reserves who won't be employed come Saturday. But Holmes will be out of commission while serving a four-game suspension.
Dallas Cowboys 27, Miami Dolphins 25
  • The Dolphins had a nerve-racking sequence in the second quarter. Franchise left tackle Jake Long, my pick as the club's most indispensable player, got shaken up on a play when Chad Henne absorbed a blindside sack and fumbled. Four plays later, Sam Hurd beat cornerback Sean Smith for a 43-yard touchdown.
  • Tyler Thigpen, not Pat White, received the prime mop-up duty after Henne and Chad Pennington took their turns. Thigpen did well. He was 10-of-18 for 160 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He ran three times for 20 yards.
  • Only 12 rushing attempts for Dolphins running backs, but 39 passes. Not sure what it means. Maybe coach Tony Sparano just wanted to let Pennington and Thigpen air it out. Maybe the Dolphins didn't want to waste their backs. But I doubt that ratio is a blueprint for the regular season.
  • Tough decision coming at receiver, even after the Greg Camarillo trade. Patrick Turner (one catch for 29 yards) was a third-round pick last year, but hasn't produced as much as undrafted rookies Marlon Moore (4 catches, 31 yards and a touchdown) or Roberto Wallace (3 catches, 59 yards and a touchdown).

Where's Spiller in crowded Bills backfield?

September, 2, 2010
In a column for's fantasy page, Jim McCormick shines a spotlight on the Buffalo Bills' running back situation.

The analysis is written with your fantasy draft in mind, but is detailed enough that it's a compelling read even if you're not a roto geek.

McCormick breaks down incumbent feature back Fred Jackson, 2008 Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch and star rookie C.J. Spiller in an attempt to determine how new coach Chan Gailey will proceed with all that talent.

Jackson and Spiller appear to be the favored backs, but Jackson's still recovering from a broken hand and might not be at full capacity for a couple games. McCormick predicts "With the team committed long term to Spiller, it's not likely that [Lynch] will get the feature role again in Buffalo outside of an injury-induced promotion."

The projection is for the Bills' backfield to amass 542 touches, with Spiller getting about 45 percent of them.

Lynch on verge of returning for Bills

August, 30, 2010
Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey said injured running back Marshawn Lynch should return for Thursday's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

"I plan on him playing, no question," Gailey said.

The development suggests Lynch will play in the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against the Miami Dolphins.

"Yeah, I should," Lynch said. "That was my goal. I feel pretty confident in getting there."

A few plays after starting running back Fred Jackson broke his hand, Lynch suffered a sprained ankle on the opening drive of the Bills' exhibition opener and has been sidelined since.

Lynch participated in Monday's walkthrough session and ran afterward.

"He did running afterwards and kept up with everybody else, which is important," Gailey said, "but we’ll know a lot more [Tuesday], when we have a real practice."

Lynch has rushed for 1,000 yards in two of his three NFL seasons and went to a Pro Bowl. He lost his job as the feature back to Jackson last season.

With both unable to play, rookie C.J. Spiller has been scintillating. In his past two preseason games he has scored three touchdowns.

"I think we had a pretty good idea of what he could do," Gailey said. "To say that all he's done is verify that would sort of be an understatement. I think we understood it, and I'm excited about his year."

Gailey was coy about his plans once all three running backs are healthy.

"We don't know how that's going to shake out," Gailey said. "We've got the luxury of three pretty good backs. So we'll make that decision when we get closer there.

"They may all be in there at the same time. You never know. On the first play of the game."

Gailey: Wildcat must feature passing threat

August, 24, 2010
The Miami Dolphins unleashed their Wildcat offense out of desperation.

Trying to build something under new head coach Tony Sparano after a 15-loss season, they opened the 2008 campaign 0-2. Their passing game couldn't stretch the field, but they did boast a deep and talented backfield.

If only they could figure out a way to utilize multiple running backs on a given play ...

Sound familiar, Buffalo Bills fans?

New head coach Chan Gailey has a quarterback known as Captain Checkdown, a stable of running backs and nothing to lose. He also isn't afraid to get creative. After all, he helped create the "Slash" role for Kordell Stewart with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gailey was asked Monday whether the Wildcat was possible in Buffalo.

"Oh, yeah," Gailey replied. "We consider everything. We're not so polished in one area that we can stay in that and beat people. We're going to have to consider everything."

In explaining his Wildcat philosophies, however, Gailey raised an important point that would apply not only to the Bills, but also any team interested in running the specialty offense, which features speed motion and a direct shotgun snap to a running back.

"Wildcat is an interesting proposition," Gailey said. "I don't know how long that thing will last if you don't throw out of it. You have to be able to throw out of that formation to make it last because pretty soon they're going to put everybody up there on defense.

"Defensive coaches are catching up slowly but surely. They'll get there. They're a smart group. You have to be able to have some diversity out of it in order to make something like that work."

Another significant problem for Buffalo -- and a major difference from Miami's situation in 2008 -- is they might not have the offensive line to pull it off. While a passing component is important, the Wildcat is based on a nasty ground attack. When the Dolphins relied on it in 2008, they often put tackles Jake Long and Vernon Carey next to each other on an unbalanced line.

Nonetheless, Gailey's comments got me thinking about the backgrounds of Wildcat-style playmakers around the AFC East.

Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch each have thrown one pass in the NFL and it has gone for a touchdown. But the prime candidate to be a Wildcat threat is rookie C.J. Spiller, who possesses a combination of elusiveness and, apparently, an arm. Spiller threw a pair of touchdown passes at Clemson.

The New York Jets have a pair of threats. They've lined up running back LaDainian Tomlinson (seven career NFL touchdown passes) and receiver Brad Smith (played quarterback at Missouri) in Wildcat roles at training camp.

The New England Patriots haven't dabbled much in the Wildcat for a couple of obvious reasons. They don't seem to have a versatile enough running back, and it makes little sense to remove the ball from Tom Brady's hands even for a play or two.

But the Patriots could get tricky with receiver Julian Edelman, an option quarterback at Kent State. He was more dangerous as a runner than he was as a passer, but so is Ronnie Brown. The threat of being able to do both is enough to keep a defense honest, which was Gailey's point.

"You're trying to create some kind of diversion for the defense so that they don't know where the ball is going all the time," Gailey said. "If you can do that, you've got a chance to create more open spaces for the guy that does have the ball, and hopefully they don’t know who has it all the time."

Can Fred Jackson be ready for Dolphins?

August, 23, 2010
After watching prized draft choice C.J. Spiller befuddle the Indianapolis Colts' first-team defense Thursday night and undrafted rookie Joique Bell hold his own, the Buffalo Bills shouldn't be in a panic over Fred Jackson's broken hand.

Besides, Marshawn Lynch's sprained ankle should be better in time for the season opener. The Bills' backfield should be OK until Jackson is fully recovered.

That said, the Bills certainly would feel much better with Jackson in uniform.

He was Buffalo's top contributor last season, becoming the first NFL player to rush for 1,000 yards and amass 1,000 yards on kickoff returns. He gained 2,516 combined yards (rushing, receiving, returns), the fourth-highest total in league history.

I checked in with ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell about Jackson's outlook for the regular season. She was skeptical Jackson would be effective on opening day, but wouldn't rule it out.

On the first possession of the Bills' preseason opener Aug. 13, Jackson broke the fourth metacarpal on his left hand. That's the long bone that goes from the wrist to the lower knuckle of the ring finger. Thankfully for the Bills, he didn't require surgery to implant a pin.

The prognosis has Jackson returning in four to six weeks. Four weeks would be two days before the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bell's main concern for Jackson would be the requirement of extra protection on the hand even after four weeks. A splint or cast would make holding onto the ball more difficult. If Jackson chose to carry the ball in his right, then using his left to ward off defenders would be problematic.

"Many times a bone in the hand, you get pretty decent healing in four weeks," Bell said. "The standard for a fully healed fracture is six weeks. The question is whether you let him play in some kind of heavy splint or a cast. That would be the requirement at four weeks.

"Is it more important for him to be carrying the ball with his left hand or keeping his left hand from delivering a stiff arm?"

Perhaps the wise move would be to go with Spiller, Lynch and Bell until Jackson's completely healed.

"I would not be surprised if he was not available for a week or two," Bell said. "But if he's eager to get back and the Bills feel it can be adequately protected and he can perform, the door isn't closed on him playing either."

C.J. Spiller gives Bills more than just a back

August, 20, 2010
TORONTO -- The Buffalo Bills were supposed to draft a tackle or a quarterback with their ninth pick.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Spiller
AP Photo/Mike GrollC.J. Spiller scored on an impressive 31-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
They didn't. But they improved both positions with the player they did select: running back C.J. Spiller.

In Thursday night's 34-21 preseason victory over the Indianapolis Colts, he showed how.

Spiller darted 31 yards for a touchdown, making three defenders look foolish along the way, the second time he touched the ball.

Spiller began the run by breaking free from Colts defensive end Robert Mathis in the backfield, a move that showed he can erase a blown blocking assignment.

"Great backs do make your line better," Bills head coach Chan Gailey said. "I don't tell this to the offensive line, and you're going to write it, but I'll deny I said it. But that's what happens.

"You can get on the edge of a guy and he quickly breaks back to the backside and he's out the gate before they can get off the block. You just become a better offensive lineman when you have a back with great quickness out there.

"You saw tonight why we drafted C.J."

Bills general manager Buddy Nix joked at the draft that the Bills have been so bad the past decade the NFL should give them special considerations.

"In the draft, you can only take one [player] each pick," Nix said. "We're in a position where they should give us about three, but they won't do that."

The Bills hope they accomplished that with Spiller anyway.

Even if the Bills win only a handful of games, their fans should be riveted by Spiller's mere presence on the field.

With veterans Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch out with injuries, Spiller started. In a quarter and a half of action, he ran 10 times for 54 yards and had one reception for 1 yard. The Colts stopped him cold a few times. He had runs of minus-6, minus-2, zero and 1 yards.

Still, you could feel the wattage with every touch.

Bills quarterback Trent Edwards acknowledged Spiller's ability to break it on any play made the offense more enjoyable to operate.

"I think what [Thursday night's victory] means is we have a really good running back," Edwards said. "C.J. Spiller is a lot of fun to hand the ball to. He was making some good defensive players miss. He runs hard and is going to be a featured player in our offense. ... It was pretty impressive to watch him tonight."

Spiller certainly will get more involved in the passing game than he did Thursday night. Although he didn't return any kicks, that's another way he should give opponents trouble.

Spiller was asked if Thursday night's game will only add to the lofty expectations that come with being viewed as a franchise savior.

"I have high expectations," Spiller replied. "The team has high expectations. It's just one game, but we can't go backwards. We have to continue to get good."

Observations from Colts-Bills in Toronto

August, 19, 2010
TORONTO -- The Buffalo Bills bounced back from a putrid performance in their preseason opener to beat the Indianapolis Colts 34-21 on Thursday night in the Rogers Centre.

Some notes and observations from the game:
  • Trent Edwards might have won the starting quarterback job with how he responded to one specific play. On a third-and-10 play in the first quarter, Colts defensive end Robert Mathis crushed Edwards while throwing. The hit knocked off Edwards' helmet and chipped a tooth. Two possessions and five plays later, Edwards hooked up with Lee Evans for a 70-yard touchdown bomb.
  • Bills coach Chan Gailey said of the sequence: "I never thought anything less would happen to be honest with you. All of our guys have moxie. You've got to have moxie to play quarterback in this league. I was impressed with that, really impressed with it. I asked after he got hit 'Are you OK?' He didn't even flinch. ... I think he's a tough guy."
  • If the Bills can count on three home-run plays a week, they'll be fine. Their touchdowns were a 31-yard C.J. Spiller run, a 78-yard Terrence McGee interception return and a 70-yard bomb to Evans.
  • Spiller's run snapped a string of 20 straight preseason possessions without a touchdown for the first-team offense. He's going to be fun to watch, one of those players who has a legitimate shot to score every time he touches the ball because he makes tacklers miss.
  • Backup quarterback Brian Brohm didn't get the most glorious opportunity to make an impression or gain ground on Edwards. Brohm could have gotten a series against the Colts' first-team defense, but Gailey sent Edwards out for a fifth possession with 11:49 left in the second quarter. Brohm entered the game with 6:05 left in the half.
  • Brohm's performance was OK against the Colts' backups. He threw a lot of high-percentage short stuff, completing 14 of 21 attempts for 125 yards with no touchdowns or no interceptions. He had a wonderful chance to throw for his first NFL touchdown right before halftime. The Bills had second-and-goal from the 5, but Brohm misfired on two passes. The Bills kicked a field goal.
  • Brohm set up the goal-to-go situation with a gorgeous pass and catch by Chad Jackson along the right sideline for a 26-yard gain.
  • Would have been nice to see Brohm air it out on third and long. In the third quarter, Brohm dumped off to Chad Simpson for 4 yards on a third-and-13 play. On a third-and-12 play two series later, the Bills ran.
  • Spiller was busy without Fred Jackson (broken hand) and Marshawn Lynch (sprained ankle). Spiller averaged only 14 carries his senior season at Clemson. He ran 10 times for 54 yards in a quarter and a half of work.
  • Spiller looked scintillating on his touchdown scamper, but his jitters and jukes didn't fool the Colts all the time. He averaged 2.6 yards on his other nine carries. He had runs that went for minus-6, minus-2, zero and 1 yards.
  • Overshadowed by Spiller was undrafted rookie running back Joique Bell, who ran 11 times for 80 yards and a touchdown. He's making a statement. Simpson, conversely, ran eight times for 8 yards.
  • The Bills' defense gave Peyton Manning some problems. He completed 8 of 15 passes for 91 yards and one touchdown with one interception. His 66.3 passer rating was less than half of Edwards'.
  • After an ugly opener against the Washington Redskins six days earlier, the defense rebounded with a great first series. Defensive lineman Marcus Stroud batted down Manning's first attempt. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin nearly intercepted a long ball to Reggie Wayne. Nose tackle Kyle Williams stuff Joseph Addai for a 3-yard loss on a screen pass.
  • Gailey said he was just wanted to give him more time in pass-rushing situations, but it's disconcerting to see last year's 11th overall draft choice, Aaron Maybin, on the field at the end of a preseason game.
  • Bills cornerback Ellis Lankster had another rough game. Taj Smith got behind him for a 43-yard touchdown strike from Curtis Painter in the second quarter.
  • Despite 35 points in the first quarter, the Rogers Centre was rather sterile again, just like the previous three Bills games played here. The announced crowd was 39,853 fans.
  • The crowd, however, got interesting in the final minutes. Perhaps the best play of the night: A Rogers Centre security guard chasing down a fan who sprinted onto the field with 1:55 left in the game. The fan had about a 20-yard head start, but the guard caught up to him and slammed his head to the turf. As the guard walked back past the Colts sideline, Wayne went out of his way to give him a high-five.