NFL Nation: Fred Jackson

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- After the Buffalo Bills traded for Bryce Brown and signed Anthony Dixon this offseason, the prevailing thought was that the team would spread out carries among its four running backs this season.

That's why our ears perked up Wednesday when coach Doug Marrone was asked a question about C.J. Spiller's role in a "three-headed" attack at running back.

"I don’t know if I want to get it down to three. I’ve never been a guy that has three backs playing in the game," Marrone said. "I’ve always believed, and you guys know, in the two backs. It’ll come down to two backs; the two backs going in there."

Perhaps it's time to pump the brakes on talk of Brown and Dixon being significant contributors. If Marrone wants his game plan to include only two running backs then Spiller and Fred Jackson are the overwhelming favorites to land those roles.

However, that might not mean Brown and Dixon are shut out entirely. Examining stats from the four seasons Marrone has served as an offensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL, there were instances where carries were spread over more than two backs.

2006 New Orleans Saints
Total carries: 472
Breakdown: Deuce McAllister (52 percent in 15 games), Reggie Bush (33 percent in 16 games), Drew Brees (9 percent in 16 games), others (7 percent)

2007 New Orleans Saints
Total carries: 392
Breakdown: Bush (40 percent in 12 games), Aaron Stecker (30 percent in 16 games), Pierre Thomas (13 percent in 12 games), others (17 percent)

2008 New Orleans Saints
Total carries: 398
Breakdown: Thomas (32 percent in 15 games), McAllister (27 percent in 13 games), Bush (27 percent in 10 games), others (14 percent)

2013 Buffalo Bills
Total carries: 546
Breakdown: Jackson (38 percent in 16 games), Spiller (37 percent in 15 games), EJ Manuel (10 percent in 10 games), Tashard Choice (6 percent in 12 games)

In other words, Marrone's plan and reality might differ. An injury to Bush in 2008, for example, led to a spike in carries for Thomas, just as an injury to Spiller or Jackson could lead to Brown or Dixon stepping into that two-back rotation in any given game this season.

What we wouldn't expect is Dixon to still be on the field with Jackson or Spiller as a fullback. There was buzz about Dixon's potential role as a fullback this offseason but it hasn't materialized. We've seen little, if any, of him at that position in training camp.

Bills Camp Report: Day 7

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • The Bills held Fred Jackson out of Saturday night's practice as he recovers from a lower leg injury. It's not considered serious and he isn't expected to miss much time. On the other hand, tight end Tony Moeaki is expected to miss "significant" time with a hamstring injury, according to coach Doug Marrone. It shouldn't keep Moeaki out for all of training camp, but the feeling is that his return might take a few weeks. With Chris Gragg still working his way back -- he was hospitalized for heat-related symptoms earlier this week -- the Bills signed tight end Dominique Jones on Saturday. The Bills waived offensive lineman Mark Asper to make room. Jones is a hefty 270 pounds and is built like a fullback. He's a different style player than Moeaki or Gragg.
  • We documented the offensive line's struggles in Saturday night's third-down drill earlier, but the issues weren't relegated to that portion of practice. When the offense reconvened for 11-on-11 work later, the results weren't much better. EJ Manuel's first series included a handoff to Anthony Dixon, a sack, a scramble, a pass batted down and an option run that ended in Manuel being stopped in the backfield by safety Da'Norris Searcy. His next set of reps started with a sack, then continued with a handoff, a completion to Marquise Goodwin, another handoff, and a throwaway on a rollout. It wasn't pretty, and all the blame can't go on the offensive line. There were a few plays in which I believed Manuel could have gotten rid of the ball and driven it downfield instead of waiting, tucking and running.
  • Saturday night featured the first live tackling drill of training camp. The 11-on-11 session featured a heavy dose of the running game, with Ronnie Wingo and Bryce Brown taking the majority of the carries. Wingo ran hard Saturday night. He has an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster but could get a heavy dose of touches in the preseason. Meanwhile, cornerback Ron Brooks and wide receiver Robert Woods collided on a pass route in the live tackling drill, with Brooks staying down on the field for several moments. He later returned to practice.
  • Undrafted rookie linebacker Jimmy Gaines received some first-team reps in team drills in place of Nigel Bradham, who stepped in with the second team for some parts of the drill. Gaines made his presence known on one play, diving to break up a Manuel pass to Brown in the flat. The Bills are trying to piece things together after losing Alonso for the season, and Gaines is the latest player in the mix. The favorite, and the most experienced of the bunch, remains Bradham.
  • For the second consecutive night, the Bills pushed practice a little longer -- to about 2 hours and 45 minutes -- and added a 7-on-7 red-zone drill at the end. Manuel received four reps, with the following results: a touchdown catch by Sammy Watkins (first down), a scramble to the pylon (second down), a catch by Woods out of bounds (third down), and scramble to the pylon with a defensive penalty (first down). Thad Lewis then stepped in for another four snaps, missing Kevin Elliott on two passes before connecting with Marcus Easley and Brown for back-to-back touchdowns. Given the Bills' struggles in the red zone last season, that phase of the game seems to appropriately be a point of emphasis this training camp.
Spiller Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesC.J. Spiller and the Bills are an NFL anomaly: a run-heavy offense that likes to push the tempo.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Last season, the Buffalo Bills' offense only hurried up to get off the field faster.

Preaching an up-tempo pace, the Bills had the NFL's second-quickest offense, averaging 24.7 seconds of possession per play. Only the Philadelphia Eagles were faster.

Yet the Bills' speed didn't translate into points. They had the NFL's most offensive drives (214) but ranked 25th in points per drive. Moreover, the Bills had the NFL's seventh-highest percentage of drives that ended without a first down or touchdown.

It's a problem that put stress on the defense. The Bills' defense played the seventh-most snaps in the NFL, while opposing offenses possessed the ball for an average of 31 minutes, 59 seconds per game, fourth-most in the league.

The sputtering offense and overworked defense were two key ingredients in the Bills' 6-10 record and fourth-place finish in the AFC East.

Despite their issues last season, the Bills still intend on pushing the tempo this summer -- but will also stick with their run-first philosophy. In doing so, the team risks the same fate.

Teams found success at either extreme of offensive pace last season. Six of the eight clubs that advanced to the divisional playoffs were either in the top five or bottom five in seconds of possession per offensive play, a measure of the speed at which offenses operate.

At one fringe were the NFL's up-tempo, no huddle attacks: the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, who squared off in the AFC Championship Game. At the other end of the spectrum were the ground-and-pound styles of the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, and San Diego Chargers.

The Seahawks and 49ers met in the NFC Championship Game, with the Seahawks then knocking off the Broncos in the Super Bowl. Both offensive approaches, then, have been proven to work in the modern NFL.

What didn't work last season was the Bills' offense. Much of its inability to convert drives into points traced back to failures on third down. Only three teams had a worse conversion rate on third down than the Bills last season, while only one NFL quarterback -- Oakland's Matt McGloin -- had a lower third-down completion percentage than Buffalo's EJ Manuel (47.5 percent).

The Bills' hope is that a second year in the system for Manuel, plus the additions of Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams at wide receiver, will allow for an offense that can move the ball through the air and put up points.

"[Watkins] is a dynamic playmaker. That's what this game is all about," general manager Doug Whaley told ESPN in May. "We got to score touchdowns."

The Bills aren't backing down from their vow to hasten their offensive pace, either. Coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nate Hackett brought a no-huddle system from Syracuse, and they are sticking with it this season.

"It needs to be moving a lot faster," Marrone said Wednesday of the offense's pace. "Obviously we’re installing again, so we’re reinstalling, and in the back of my mind that might tend to slow things down a little bit, but my expectation is to be right on the money with it, so we need to be faster."

In an ideal world, the Bills' 2014 offense would be a carbon copy of their early 1990s attack: a quick pace with both explosive receivers (e.g., Andre Reed, James Lofton) and a more than capable running game (Thurman Thomas).

Last season, however, showed the danger of falling short of that goal: the offense was efficient -- but efficiently bad. The Bills gained the NFL's second most rushing yards, but the offensive pace only served to negate the ball-controlling effects of a good ground game.

Whaley comes from a run-first background with the Pittsburgh Steelers and has brought in maulers across his offensive line in Buffalo. When we gathered data in May, the Bills' offensive line had an average weight of 325 pounds, by far the heaviest in the NFL.

This offseason, Whaley added two running backs to his backfield: Bryce Brown, who he long coveted in Philadelphia, and Anthony Dixon, who was lost in the 49ers' crowded backfield. Added to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the Bills have stocked their shelves to ground-and-pound their way through opposing defenses.

"The sky is the limit for that group. You have four true guys who I think can start or play for any other team in the league," Manuel said Tuesday. "When you have great talent like that on the backfield, it’s always a huge friend to the quarterback. If the running game is great, the passing game should open up as well."

Yes, the enhanced backfield should benefit the passing game. But there is no requirement that the Bills must try to maintain their breakneck offensive pace.

In fact, the Bills were a somewhat of an anomaly last season among teams that ran an up-tempo offense. They gained 42.6 percent of their offensive yards by running, the highest percentage in the NFL. The 49ers (42.5 percent), Seahawks (40.3 percent), and Panthers (40 percent) ranked second, fourth, and fifth, respectively.

Yet those three NFC juggernauts were among the four slowest offenses in the NFL last season. They didn't try to be the high-flying Broncos. Instead, all three of those teams controlled the ball, shortened games, played quality defense, and advanced deep into the playoffs.

That is not to say the Bills' up-tempo, run-first offense can't work this season. If everything clicks, it will be a thing of beauty.

But is that realistic, and are the two approaches truly compatible? Or will the Bills simply run into the same problems their offense created last season?
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills players arrived at St. John Fisher College for training camp Friday, the first NFL team to report this summer.

Bills players will hold their conditioning run Saturday before holding their first public practice at 6 p.m. Sunday.

The team made two minor roster moves Friday, waiving cornerback Darius Robinson and wide receiver Cordell Roberson. The roster is now at 88 players, two shy of the minimum.

As far as the players who moved into the dorm Friday in front of cameras, running back Fred Jackson arrived in style:

When the Tennessee Titans released running back Chris Johnson earlier Friday, each NFL Nation reporter was polled on his or her team's chances of signing Johnson. For the Bills, I said their interest was 'low,' because of the presence of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the backfield.

Then came news Friday afternoon from ESPN Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky, who reported that the Bills and Miami Dolphins were the two teams closest to making a move with the Titans before Johnson was released.

It's a nugget that could be as much about C.J. Spiller as it is about Johnson.

With Spiller and Jackson, there would be few opportunities for Johnson to get carries. That wouldn't be the most efficient use of Johnson, who has rushed for at least 1,000 yards each season since being drafted in 2008, so something would have to give.

Both Spiller and Jackson will become free agents this season. Jackson is 33 -- and has faced injury issues in both knees -- but he performed much more consistently than Spiller last season. It would be almost unimaginable for the Bills to move on from Jackson, their offensive captain, in favor of Johnson.

That leaves Spiller, who never got into a groove in first-year offensive coordinator Nate Hackett's system. Although Spiller averaged 4.6 yards per carry, he averaged fewer than three yards per carry in six games. On plays with at least five yards to gain for a first down, Spiller lost yardage on 14.4 percent of his runs, the worst rate among NFL running backs with a qualifying amount of carries.

Hampered by an ankle injury, Spiller played 34 percent of offensive snaps, considerably less than Jackson's 56 percent and the fewest since Spiller's rookie season. Spiller's 185 receiving yards were also the fewest since he was a rookie.

Spiller said following the season that he would not request a trade.

“A trade? Nah. I don’t have any reason to. [I’m] satisfied,” he said on Dec. 30. “You know, I don’t have any, you know, bad feelings with this organization or with [CEO] Russ [Brandon] or with, you know, [general manager] Doug Whaley. You know, I like Coach [Doug] Marrone and I like [running backs] Coach [Tyrone] Wheatley, so I have no reason to go nowhere else, but you know that’s stuff I can’t control. But I wouldn’t go up there and ask for one.”

Spiller has a $5.9 million cap hit this season, the sixth-highest on the Bills' roster. However, trading Spiller would only save about $1.8 million Still, there would be incentive for the Bills to trade Spiller this offseason instead of losing him to the open market next offseason.

Now that the Titans have released Johnson, the Bills have the opportunity to sign him without having to give up anything in a trade. If they choose to pursue Johnson further, it would continue to cast doubt on Spiller's future.
Offensively, the Buffalo Bills' most pressing needs this offseason are at offensive line and tight end.

But what about running back?

There isn't much question at the position next season, as Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are expected to carry the load once again. In the NFL, though, it's good business to keep an eye further down the road.

Jackson turned 33 last week and enters the final season of his contract. While it would be a shock if Jackson decided to finish his career outside of Buffalo, his age and contract situation present some uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Spiller could also enter the final season of his deal. His six-year rookie contract includes a voidable final year (2015), which could put him on the market next spring.

It's entirely possible that both Jackson and Spiller could return in 2015. If they don't, the Bills have little depth at the position. They promoted Ronnie Wingo from the practice squad last October and he barely saw the field. At this point, he may not be more than a depth-level player.

In January, the Bills signed Anthony Allen, who spent two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He brings some experience and special-teams ability that could earn him a roster spot with a strong preseason, but he's not a viable replacement option for Jackson or Spiller.

Enter this May's draft.

The Bills aren't going to target a running back in the first round unless it's an Adrian Peterson-type player, general manager Doug Whaley said last week. There isn't a Adrian Peterson-type player in this year's draft, so don't hold your breath.

But what about the middle rounds? That could be the sweet spot for the Bills to draft a running back.

At last week's combine, the Bills interviewed Boston College running back Andre Williams, who was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

"His agent, Erik Burkhardt, had made a good suggestion: Bring a notebook to write down the names of all the people you meet with," wrote's Jenny Vrentras. "But in Williams’ first formal meeting, with the Bills on Friday night, he was greeted by eight people upon entering the room. He shook each person’s hand, but there simply wasn’t enough time in the 15-minute window to write down everyone’s name."

Williams is expected to be a mid-round pick and the Bills have a potential long-term need at running back. Still, it's dangerous to read into the Bills' interview, as every NFL team sits down with dozens of players in Indianapolis.

Because of that, it's far too early to say the Bills are "interested" in Williams, but it's not too early to consider running back as a draft need for Buffalo.

NFLN survey/respected player: Bills

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
In the Buffalo Bills' locker room, there is little question about who is respected. Running back Fred Jackson and defensive tackle Kyle Williams, two of the team's most-tenured players, provide leadership voices and veteran guidance.

But in ESPN's recent survey of 320 NFL players, Bills players drew only two votes: one each to Kyle Williams and defensive tackle Mario Williams.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was the leading vote-getter, with 86 players naming him as most-respected, while New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson were tied for second with 24 votes each.

Coincidentally, all three of those players are on the Bills' schedule next season, as they host the Vikings, travel to Denver, and face AFC East foe New England twice.

One ex-Bill drew some votes in the survey, as 11 players said that recently retired linebacker London Fletcher was the NFL's most-respected player.

All-AFC East: Buffalo Bills

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

It was all about defense this season for the Buffalo Bills.

The arrival of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and his pressure-based scheme turned around a defense that had ranked 22nd in the NFL last season, allowing 5.57 yards per play. Pettine's group this season jumped up the charts to No. 6, allowing 4.9 yards per play. It was no surprise then that the Bills sent three defensive players to the Pro Bowl: defensive end Mario Williams, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and safety Jairus Byrd.

It's also no surprise that those three players were among the four who were voted to the All-AFC East team by's NFL Nation. The writers for each AFC East team recently nominated and voted for an all-division team, and four Bills made the cut. Linebacker Kiko Alonso joined Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Byrd as those making the cut for Buffalo. No offensive players were voted into the group.

It's tough to have any Bills honored as All-AFC East on offense, given Buffalo's performance this season. The Bills ranked 29th offensively, averaging 4.85 yards per play. However, there were still standout performers for Buffalo. Running back Fred Jackson leads that group, rushing for 896 yards, while adding 387 yards as a receiver. He had 10 total touchdowns. Making the cut in place of Jackson was New York Jets running back Chris Ivory, who ran for 833 yards. I think Jackson was more deserving.

Defensively, it was a tough break for Marcell Dareus, who had a strong season. He set a career high with 7.5 sacks but was edged out by two stronger candidates: Williams and Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who is a candidate for rookie of the year. A case could also be made that cornerback Leodis McKelvin was deserving of all-division honors, but it was tough to top New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib and the Miami Dolphins' Brent Grimes, who both had four interceptions.

EJ Manuel present for start of practice

December, 24, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (knee) warmed up with his teammates at the start of Tuesday's practice.

It was unclear how much Manuel participated in practice beyond that. Coach Doug Marrone will provide an update of Manuel's status around 1:30 p.m. ET.

Manuel missed Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins after he experienced swelling in his left knee. Marrone said last week that he was "110 percent confident" that Manuel would play this Sunday, but sounded less confident during his Monday news conference.

The Bills travel to play the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Stevie Johnson (personal), running back Fred Jackson (ribs) and safety Aaron Williams (ribs) were not spotted at the start of Tuesday's practice.

The funeral for Johnson's mother will be held Friday in California, Marrone said Monday.

Upon Further Review: Bills Week 16

December, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 19-0 win over the Miami Dolphins:

Jackson reportedly has broken ribs: The Buffalo News reported after the game that running back Fred Jackson played through broken ribs. Jackson, 32, was probable for the game after sitting out Wednesday's practice. It's hardly the first time that he's played through injury this season, and coach Doug Marrone noted that after the game. "Early on, I think maybe some other players -- not talking about players on this team, I'm talking about other players that have had what he has -- I'm not sure they can go out and perform like that," Marrone said. "I give him a lot of credit and I admire him for that."

Robey stands out: Undrafted rookie cornerback Nickell Robey continues to be one of the top performers on the Bills' defense. On Sunday, he had two sacks, three total tackles for loss and a pass defensed. The slot cornerback is undersized but plays with great instinct, according to Marrone. "He's a very good definition of instinct," Marrone said. "When you come on here and you just have the feel for the slot, has a feel for the routes, has a feel for things going on out there and he's done a nice job." Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said that the team was shocked that Robey, who played at USC, wasn't drafted in April.

Goodwin has repeat injury: Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin left in the first quarter and did not return. It was announced as a knee injury, and Marrone said it apparently has been a recurring issue for the rookie. "It was the same injury ... he's had this injury before where it kind of goes and comes and we call it a knee," Marrone said. "I don't know the extent of it, [but] obviously it's worse than it has been in the other games."

Reason for Dareus' benching: Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was benched for the first quarter after an undisclosed team rules violation. WGR 550 reported after the game that Dareus has been "habitually late" to team meetings this season.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (ribs) was limited in his return to practice Thursday.

Jackson did not practice Wednesday in what coach Doug Marrone characterized as a rest day.

Meanwhile, linebacker Arthur Moats was excused from Thursday's practice for personal reasons. He will play Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, Marrone said.

Here's the Bills' full injury report from Thursday:

QB EJ Manuel (knee)
CB Aaron Williams (ribs)
WR Stevie Johnson (personal)
LB Arthur Moats (personal)

RB Fred Jackson (ribs)

DT Marcell Dareus (ankle)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)
CB Brandon Smith (ankle)

Stevie Johnson likely out for Sunday

December, 18, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson is not expected to play in Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins after being excused from the team.

Johnson's mother died unexpectedly last Saturday, but he played in Sunday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I don't believe that he will be available for our game on Sunday," coach Doug Marrone said. "Our thoughts and our prayers are with Stevie and his family."

The status of safety Aaron Williams, who left Sunday's game with an injury to his ribs, is up in the air.

"I think Aaron is going to be 50-50," Marrone said. I can't really say right now either way, so we're going to be monitoring that situation and going through that treatment process."

Veterans Fred Jackson (ribs) and Kyle Williams (Achilles) were both held out of Wednesday's practice for extra rest.

Here is the Bills' full injury report from Wednesday:

S Aaron Williams (ribs)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)
RB Fred Jackson (ribs)
WR Stevie Johnson (personal)

CB Brandon Smith (ankle)
DT Marcell Dareus (ankle)
QB EJ Manuel (knee)

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 15

December, 16, 2013
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills:

Grounded: One of the reasons the Jaguars had been 4-1 since the bye week was their improved rush defense. After giving up 162 yards per game in the first eight games, they had allowed opponents an average of just 71 yards in the next five games. The Bills ran for 198 yards, including 80 by Fred Jackson, 67 by C.J. Spiller and 37 by quarterback EJ Manuel. The Jaguars struggled with all the things they did well in the last five games: staying in their gaps, tackling, communication. “The biggest thing for us was the fundamentals,” defensive end Jason Babin said. “We did it to ourselves; whether it was 10 guys on the field, whether it was missed tackles, whether it was missed alignment, missed assignment, looking back I’m pretty sure when we watch the tape that’s what we’re going to see. That’s I think what makes it most frustrating, is we did it to ourselves.”

Lewis more involved: Tight end Marcedes Lewis was more of a factor in the passing game against the Bills than he has been all season. That was partly due to the absence of receiver Cecil Shorts (groin). Getting Lewis more involved is something offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch should make a priority. Lewis caught a season-high four passes for 54 yards and one touchdown, the first time in his career he’s had touchdown catches in three consecutive games. Lewis made several catches on back-shoulder throws and scored on a screen. He can be much more of a factor in the middle of the field and certainly is a big target in the red zone. He’s a good blocker and a huge help in the running game, but if Shorts is unable to play the next two weeks, Lewis needs to get more work.

Line shuffle: With the news that backup guard Mike Brewster is out for the rest of the season with a fractured left ankle, the Jaguars’ situation on the offensive line is somewhat shaky. Brewster was in the game because starter Will Rackley did not play due to a concussion (it’s unclear how long he will be out). Jacques McClendon replaced Brewster and had an up-and-down day, committing two false starts but doing a solid job in the run game. The Jaguars likely will sign Drew Nowak from the practice squad to replace Brewster, and Nowak could be forced to start Sunday’s game against Tennessee if Rackley can’t play. Nowak has not appeared in a game in his two seasons.

Guy trouble: Winston Guy had an up-and-down day as well, but it was almost expected since he has been playing free safety all season and was forced into duty as the starting strong safety because Johnathan Cyprien (thigh) was inactive. Guy had six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, but he also missed several tackles and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for hitting Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin in the head, a play that’s likely to draw a fine. “He has the ability to make some big plays but in four days of practice [at strong safety] like that we knew that there could be some opportunities that we missed,” coach Gus Bradley said.

Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills

December, 15, 2013

A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

What it means: This game meant little in the standings for either team, but after their 27-6 loss in Tampa last weekend, the Bills couldn't afford to come out with the same performance. They didn't, which is a positive sign for Doug Marrone's group. It's a win that takes some pressure off a young team, but plenty of questions remain. The Bills are now 2-6 away from Ralph Wilson Stadium this season (including the game in Toronto).

Manuel rebounds: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel -- and the entire offense -- was awful in the first quarter. Manuel had a 6.0 passer rating in the first quarter, the seventh worst in the NFL this season. But then something clicked. The Bills were able to put together two long touchdown drives in the second quarter, injecting some confidence into the young signal-caller. Even when he was rattled by a third-quarter strip-sack that led to a Jaguars touchdown, Manuel came back and led the Bills on another touchdown drive. There's little time left this season, but the Bills need to see more of that.

Bills eliminated: Minutes before the Bills sealed their win in Jacksonville, the Dolphins defeated the Patriots in Miami, officially eliminating the Bills from playoff contention. This will be the 14th consecutive January that the Bills will remain out of the postseason, the longest active drought in the NFL.

Stock watch: Rising: running game. The Bills finished just shy of 200 yards rushing, which in addition to Manuel's bounce-back effort powered the offense through much of the game. It wasn't all pretty -- Fred Jackson couldn't gain a first down on three consecutive runs in the fourth quarter, giving the Jaguars one last chance -- but the ground game is still the strength of this Bills offense.

What's next: The Bills, now eliminated, have two more games to play. They'll host the streaking Dolphins, who are now 8-6, at Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday. They'll then head back on the road for their finale against the Patriots.

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 15, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills:

What it means: What could have been a gut-it-out victory because of the loss of four starters turned into another loss at EverBank Field in front of 60,085 fans. The Jaguars turned it over four times, including once when Denard Robinson fumbled the ball at the Buffalo 1-yard line, and it bounced out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. The Jaguars had won three games in a row and were coming off their first victory at EverBank Field in more than a year.

Stock watch: It’s harder to be much higher than Jordan Todman, who ran for 109 yards and had 44 yards receiving. The first-year player was making his first start because Maurice Jones-Drew was inactive with a hamstring injury. Todman also had a pair of big plays, a 33-yard run on a drive that ended with a field goal, and a 30-yard catch-and-run to convert a third down and continue a drive that ended with a touchdown. Quarterback Chad Henne did not have one of his better games. He threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, and threw several other passes that were nearly intercepted. He made some plays with his feet and had to deal with heavy pressure, but he wasn’t able to overcome his mistakes.

Banged-up offensive line: The offensive line was hit hard by injuries. Starting left guard Will Rackley was added to the injury report on Saturday with a concussion and did not play. His replacement, Mike Brewster, suffered a left ankle injury in the first half and did not return. Jacques McClendon finished the game at left guard, which left the Jaguars with just one other healthy offensive lineman (Sam Young).

In a rush: One of the things that had keyed the Jaguars’ turnaround in the second half of the season was better rush defense. They went from allowing 162 yards per game in the first eight games to holding the next five opponents under 100 yards. That changed on Sunday, when the Bills battered the Jaguars for 198 yards on the ground. Fred Jackson rushed for 80 yards, C.J. Spiller 67, and quarterback EJ Manuel 37.

What’s next: The Jaguars play their final home game of the season against Tennessee at 1 p.m. on Sunday.