- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- To bounce or not to bounce?
With C.J. Spiller, that’s the big question.
The Buffalo Bills running back is among the most explosive players in the NFL, capable of breaking open defenses every time he touches the ball. But when he doesn’t have a chance for a big gain -- and injuries this season have limited his opportunities -- the Bills want him to take what he can get.
“I expect to see that [more] of what we saw before. If something is open inside, to go ahead and take it,” coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday. “Not always look for that big home run play.”
Spiller has hit some runs out of the park this season, notably a 54-yard touchdown on a bum ankle in Cleveland, as well as a 61-yard dash against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Of course, the Bills would welcome more of those plays, but Marrone suggested Wednesday that Spiller’s lack of production at points this season -- he’s averaged less than three yards per carry in five games -- could mean he’s a victim of his own success.
“I think it’s hard. When you have success and make a lot of big runs, sometimes you tend to keep looking for it,” Marrone said. “I’m not saying that’s C.J.’s issue at all. But what you want to do is keep that discipline, keep that structure and keep him running in there.
“And when he sees the three or four yards, go ahead and take it.”
Marrone, who served as offensive coordinator in New Orleans from 2006-08, coached Reggie Bush, a similarly dynamic rusher who the Bills’ first-year head coach compared to Spiller.
“I’ve had this experience before, with the same type of running back that C.J. is. Guys that can break plays and guys that are extremely explosive,” he said. “Reggie was very explosive, very quick. Saw things quickly. It was the same thing.
“There would be two or three yards in there, and we’d say, hey, try to go up and get in there, and he’d bounce it outside and get the big play.”
It’s a delicate balance for Spiller and Bush, as each is capable of bouncing runs outside for big gains but also risks losing yardage if he is stopped in the process.
Given the Bills’ problems this season on third downs and in the passing game in general, though, it seems like Marrone wants Spiller to lean toward the safer route.
“It just becomes a point of discipline,” Marrone said. “[Spiller] has done a much better jump in practice of taking it up in there.”