Buffalo Bills: C.J. Spiller
Spiller is set to hit the open market when the free-agent negotiation period begins March 7. In an appearance Tuesday on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Spiller didn't rule out a return to Buffalo but made it clear he's keeping his options open.
"There’s still a possibility that I could be a in Bills uniform," Spiller said. "You never know how this thing is gonna play out. The organization knows I want to be there. Pretty much the ball is in their court.
"At the same time, we’re going to weigh all of our options and see what best suits me. The biggest thing is you want to go somewhere where you’re wanted. That’s the biggest thing. That’s pretty much how I’m approaching this thing, and I’m looking forward to it."
Striking a deal with a winning team that has the right style of offense is important to Spiller.
"You got to go to a place that fits your style of play," he said. "You got to be comfortable with the offensive coordinator. Obviously, you want to have a great quarterback -- only certain teams have that -- you want to be in a good situation.
"Obviously, you want to compete for championships. Because at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. Obviously, I've been in the NFL for five years now. We haven't been fortunate enough to reach the playoffs and that's pretty much -- that's really high on my list: having a chance to get to the postseason and experience that and having a chance to hoist that Vince Lombardi trophy.
"Those two things right there are extremely high on my list: teams that can win and be a contender."
That doesn't mean the Bills are off the table, however. In an appearance Tuesday on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Spiller praised new Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
"I haven't had a chance to sit down with him. They've been busy with combine stuff," he said. "From everything that I hear -- also I've studied some of the 49ers, what they do -- he's a guy that loves to run the football. As a running back, that's what you want: a guy that loves to run the ball, no matter what. Coach Roman, he does a good job of sticking with his guns. He's gonna be physical. You've got to be excited as a runner."
If Spiller can't agree to a deal with the Bills, his most likely landing spot remains the New York Jets, where former Bills coach Chain Gailey is installing the same offense that made Spiller a star earlier in his Bills career.
"His offense is gonna be very creative," Spiller said of Gailey. "He's gonna put his players in the best situations to win matchups. Just a humble guy. First class, goes about his business the right way. He's gonna treat his men like men.
"Obviously it will be different now, since he's just gonna be the offensive coordinator. He's gonna have more time just to spend on the offense, compared to his time in Buffalo when he was the head coach and pretty much had the full plate. Now he's just gonna be able to focus in on that offense and do what he does well."
Position: Running back
- JacksonFred Jackson: 51.6 percentSpiller
- Anthony Dixon: 20.6 percent
- C.J. Spiller: 17.7 percent
- Bryce Brown: 11.1 percent
Pending free agents: Spiller (unrestricted)
2015 cap hits (position rank):
- Jackson: $2.6 million (22nd in NFL)
- Dixon: $1.167 million (36th in NFL)
- Brown: $660,000
- FB Corey Knox: $435,000
Market watch: Pending free agents include DeMarco Murray, Justin Forsett, Frank Gore, Ryan Mathews, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Ahmad Bradshaw, Knowshon Moreno, and Darren McFadden.
Draft need: Moderate -- Jackson, who turns 34 in February, is running on borrowed time. His production declined after he returned from a groin injury this past season and while the Bills can likely get another adequate season out of him, they need to look toward the future. If Spiller leaves in free agency, filling the fourth spot on this depth chart with a mid-to-late round pick is wise.
Scout's take: "Spiller is such an enigma. I wouldn't give him big bucks. I certainly don't think he's a feature guy. Do you trust Rex Ryan & Co. to use him properly? Probably not. I don't trust Bryce Brown, though, either. They traded for him and he has ability but he couldn't beat anybody out to get on the field and was highly consistent before being a Bill. But I still think Fred Jackson has a year or two left. Despite his age, he's not that weathered. I think you can count on him at least another season. It's such a deep running back draft. It seems like that might be the way to go here: Use some of your free agency money elsewhere, have Jackson, give Brown a shot and use a third- or fourth-round pick on a deep running back draft." -- ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson
Quote of note: "[The previous coaching staff] did a lot of switching in and out. ... It seemed like every time a guy would make a big run, they would substitute. I think it was just the rotation of it. Then with Fred being here the longest and knowing the offense the most, I think they felt in certain situations, more comfortable having him out there. But we're excited this year coming in with the emphasis and commitment to the run game. There's going to be a rotation, but I don't think it's going to be as quick for guys. I think they'll be able to stay in and get a feel for what they're doing and get in a groove." -- Bills general manager Doug Whaley to Syracuse.com's Matthew Fairburn, during the 2015 Senior Bowl
Here is a sampling:
Wow... That caught me off guard for sure— Eric Wood (@EWood70) December 31, 2014
How quickly things can change just had a team meeting Monday and wasn't given a heads up, but guess that's how this business works— Cj Spiller (@CJSPILLER) December 31, 2014
Kyle Orton -- 68 of 68
EJ Manuel -- 0 of 68
Fred Jackson -- 47 of 68
C.J. Spiller -- 17 of 68
Anthony Dixon -- 4 of 68
Bryce Brown -- 0 of 68 (inactive)
Quick-hit thoughts: Spiller played exactly 25 percent of snaps, while Jackson's share (69 percent) was slightly less than his workload the past three weeks. It wound up being a historically poor day for the entire running game. Jackson finished with 10 yards on six carries, Dixon had 7 yards on three carries, while Spiller lost four yards on his four runs. Dixon said after the game that he thought the Bills should've stuck more with the ground game, but given the results, what would have been the use?
Sammy Watkins -- 68 of 68
Robert Woods -- 66 of 68
Chris Hogan -- 54 of 68
Marquise Goodwin -- 2 of 68
Marcus Easley -- 0 of 68 (special teams only)
Marcus Thigpen -- 0 of 68 (special teams only)
Deonte Thompson -- 0 of 68 (inactive)
Quick-hit thoughts: It's hard to pin the offense's problems on this group. While the production has hardly been consistent from Watkins and Woods, the two young receivers are dealing with one of the NFL's worst quarterback situations. Each had a touchdown Sunday and would be putting up bigger numbers in a more stable offense.
Scott Chandler -- 55 of 68
MarQueis Gray -- 14 of 68
Lee Smith -- 13 of 68
Chris Gragg -- 0 of 68 (injured/inactive)
Quick-hit thoughts: Even with Chandler's touchdown catch Sunday, his third of the season, the Bills could use an upgrade at the position. It's not a top priority, but it should be high on the list.
LT Cordy Glenn -- 68 of 68
LG Kraig Urbik -- 68 of 68
C Eric Wood -- 68 of 68
RG Erik Pears -- 68 of 68
RT Seantrel Henderson -- 68 of 68
Chris Hairston -- 0 of 68 (special teams only)
Cyril Richardson -- 0 of 68 (special teams only)
Cyrus Kouandjio -- 0 of 68 (inactive)
Quick-hit thoughts: The question now is whether Doug Marrone gives Kouandjio or Richardson the nod next Sunday against New England to evaluate his two young linemen. Even if he does, the Bills have some serious question marks almost across the board on this line. It would be an upset if Pears and Urbik are the starters at guard next season, but how do the Bills fill the holes? They just drafted three linemen last season and adding more young players would continue to add uncertainty to the group. Getting Chris Williams back healthy could help, but the Bills might need to add another option in free agency in case Williams doesn't pan out.
Sammy Watkins & Robert Woods -- The Bills' offense had issues Sunday, but the problems didn't extend to these two receivers. The duo combined for 10 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns, including an all-too-easy 42-yard scoring strike to Watkins in the first quarter.
Dan Carpenter -- The veteran kicker converted a 54-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. He's attempted eight kicks of at least 50 yards this year, tied for the fourth-most in the league, and has been successful on six of them.
Offensive line -- The main theme from players after the game was the Bills being dominated by the Raiders up front, so it starts with this group. Doug Marrone said their performance was as bad as any they've had this season, which is saying something. Run blocking (13 yards on 13 carries) was notably poor.
Run defense -- Raiders rushers Latavius Murray (86 yards on 23 carries) and Darren McFadden (54 yards on nine carries) didn't meet much resistance from the defense, especially after defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was lost to a knee injury. The Bills have allowed 4.66 yards per carry since their bye week, the seventh-worst mark in the NFL over that span.
C.J. Spiller -- The offensive line's struggles aside, Spiller looked sluggish as he returned to the field for the first time in eight weeks. He committed a false start penalty on what would have been his second snap of the contest, while he lost four yards on four carries. Spiller was also fortunate to recover a fumble on his final run of the game.
Corey Graham -- Defensive captain shouldered blame for the loss after allowing a 51-yard catch by Andre Holmes on a third-and-22 late in the fourth quarter. Graham, who deserves credit for his play over the entire season, said that he tried to come away with an interception when he should have opted for deflecting the pass.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 26-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at O.co Coliseum:
What it means: The Bills (8-7) were eliminated from the playoffs in crushing fashion. Riding high after taking down the Green Bay Packers, the Bills made a cross-country trip to Oakland and laid an egg to end their season. The Raiders (3-12) were able to make the big plays, including a key 51-yard catch by Andre Holmes on a third-and-22 late in the fourth quarter, the Packers weren't able to execute last week. Oakland's "black hole" took on new meaning for the Bills, whose offense -- including quarterback Kyle Orton -- yet again proved too inconsistent to win.
Stock watch: Rushing offense -- down. The Bills ran 13 times for 13 yards and their worst single-game rushing performance since 1997. It tied the Detroit Lions' 13 yards in Week 13 as the second-fewest by a team this season, behind the Indianapolis Colts' 1 rushing yard Sunday. The Bills entered Sunday with the NFL's 26th-ranked rushing offense and averaging 3.83 yards per carry.
Spiller ineffective in return: Playing his first game since fracturing his collarbone in Week 7, running back C.J. Spiller was largely ineffective in limited action against the Raiders. He ran four times for negative-4 yards and fumbled, though he recovered the loose ball on his final carry of the game. He added four catches for 14 yards.
Game ball: WR Sammy Watkins. The rookie was the lone bright spot in the Bills' offense. He caught a 42-yard touchdown from Orton in the first quarter and finished with three catches for a team-high 75 yards.
Two key defenders injured: The Bills suffered a pair of losses in their defense Sunday when Marcell Dareus (knee) and Stephon Gilmore (head) both left the game with injuries. Dareus has been one of the Bills' best defensive linemen this season, with 10 sacks, while Gilmore is the Bills' top cornerback.
What's next: The Bills close out their regular season with a trip to meet the New England Patriots (12-3) next Sunday. It's the second consecutive season the Bills have wrapped up at Gillette Stadium; Buffalo lost 34-20 to New England in their finale last December.
Brown was effectively pushed off the 46-man game-day roster with the return of C.J. Spiller from injured reserve. Spiller is active Sunday, as expected.
The Bills deactivated Brown for the first seven games of the season but he had been active every game while Spiller was out.
Here is the full list of Bills' inactives for Sunday:
TE Chris Gragg (knee)
RB Bryce Brown
LB Larry Dean
CB Ross Cockrell
LB Randell Johnson
OL Cyrus Kouandjio
WR Deonte Thompson
Here is what to watch for from the Bills' side:
1. Strength against weakness: We led off the past two weeks dissecting how the Bills' defense was meeting its opponent's strength, namely the offenses of the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers. This week, the situation is almost entirely reversed, and the Bills' defense is meeting the Raiders' main weakness -- their offense. Consider some of their league rankings:
- QBR: 27th (Bills' defense: 1st)
- Yards per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: 5th)
- Yards per play: 32nd (Bills' defense: 4th)
- Rushing yards per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: 9th)
- Passing yards per game: 24th (Bills' defense: 5th)
- First downs per game: 32nd (Bills' defense: tied-8th)
3. Scoreboard watching: While it's necessary for the Bills to secure a victory Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive, they'll need a lot of help during the next two weeks from other teams. That means they'll have to watch the scoreboard Saturday, Sunday, and Monday with several AFC contenders in action in the three-day span. FiveThirtyEight has a terrific tool that lays out each game's impact on the Bills' playoff chances, which currently sit at 5.2 percent. Here are the positive outcomes for the Bills:
- Bills defeat Raiders: increases Bills' playoff odds by 2.4 percent.
- Houston Texans defeat Baltimore Ravens: increases Bills' playoff odds by 2.1 percent.
- Denver Broncos defeat Cincinnati Bengals: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.7 percent.
- San Francisco 49ers defeat San Diego Chargers: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.5 percent.
- Pittsburgh Steelers beat Kansas City Chiefs: increases Bills' playoff odds by 1.4 percent.
- Oct. 23, 2005: Loss, 38-17
- Sept. 19, 2004: Loss, 13-10
- Nov. 28, 1977: Loss, 34-13
- Oct. 15, 1972: Loss, 28-16
- Oct. 19, 1969: Loss, 50-21
- Nov. 28, 1968: Loss, 13-10
- Dec. 24, 1967: Loss, 28-21
Spiller (collarbone) was a limited participant in each practice this week.
Here is the Bills' full injury report for Sunday's game:
TE Chris Gragg (knee; limited participation)
S Duke Williams (concussion; limited participation)
RB Anthony Dixon (chest; full participation)
K Dan Carpenter (groin; limited participation)
S Da'Norris Searcy (hamstring; limited participation)
RB Spiller (shoulder; limited participation)
WR Marcus Thigpen (foot; limited participation)
CB Stephon Gilmore (shoulder; limited participation)
DE Jarius Wynn (knee; limited participation)
With Chandler returning, the Bills had perfect attendance at Thursday's practice, with all 52 players on their 53-man roster practicing.
Running back C.J. Spiller, who remains on injured reserve, also took part.
Wide receiver Mike Williams, on injured reserve, watched the start of practice from the sideline.
The Bills listed Spiller as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, the beginning of his third week of practice since returning from a broken collarbone.
"I'm not gonna sit up here and say he didn't look good," coach Doug Marrone said after Wednesday's practice. "He looked good, but he's still working his way back into the football part of it."
Spiller last played in a win Oct. 19 over the Minnesota Vikings.
"I feel good," Spiller said Wednesday. "We'll see how the rest of the week goes, to be honest."
The Bills have yet to make a decision on whether Spiller will play Sunday in Oakland. If the Bills' want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, it's a game they must win.
"Obviously that does play a big factor," he said, "but at the same time, be smart about it."
Among those players is defensive end Jerry Hughes, who is set to become a free agent after this season.
"I'm not going to think anything like that," Hughes said Thursday. "We still got three more games left. That's been our whole focus, not being too far into the future. It's so hard to do."
While Hughes might not be thinking about it, his contract situation should be among the front office's chief concerns this winter.
With that in mind, and the Bills' regular season winding down, let's take a look at the Bills' top financial priorities this offseason:
Spiller remains on injured reserve with a designation to return and cannot be activated to the 53-man roster until after the Bills' Dec. 14 game against the Green Bay Packers.
Wednesday was the first day that Spiller, who was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 21, was eligible to practice. The Bills have 21 days from Wednesday for him to return to the active roster.
C.J. Spiller welcomed back to practice by Anthony Dixon. pic.twitter.com/X7ka0bqWst— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) December 3, 2014
Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who both suffered hip injuries in Sunday's win over the Cleveland Browns, were on the field for the start of Wednesday's practice.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams and left tackle Cordy Glenn were not on the field Wednesday.
The Bills bolstered their backfield Tuesday by signing free agent Phillip Tanner, his agents announced on Twitter:
Tanner, 26, played in 39 games for the Dallas Cowboys from 2011-2013. He has averaged 2.7 yards on 56 career carries and has nine receptions. Tanner also contributed on special teams for the Cowboys.
The Bills have yet to make a corresponding roster move. One option is to move Spiller to injured reserve with a designation to return, which would keep him out until at least Week 16.
With Spiller expected to miss significant time and Jackson also out for possibly a month, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown will shoulder the load at running back, with Tanner now in the fold as a third option.
Tanner might not have been the Bills' first choice, however. ESPN NFL Nation Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky reported Tuesday that the Titans signed running back Antonio Andrews off their practice squad after the Bills made him an offer to join their 53-man roster.