The Buffalo Bills have been a surprising team early on, boasting a respectable 4-3 record, which puts them second in the AFC East behind New England (5-2). Unfortunately, Buffalo’s chances of continuing their solid play took a huge hit with major injuries to both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Playing against the Minnesota Vikings, Jackson was the first to go down when he suffered a groin injury in the first quarter. This gave Spiller a chance to finally have the feature-back role to himself. Things started off very well as the former first-round pick took his first carry for 53 yards. But he was carted off the field following the play after breaking his collarbone.
Some have called Spiller’s injury season-ending, while other reports suggest that he could possibly be back before the season ends. As for Jackson, his injury is expected to keep him sidelined for a month. This leaves two gaping holes in Buffalo’s running game since Spiller leads the team in carries (69) and rushing yards (287) while Jackson is a close second in carries (68) and yards (234). So now that the Bill’s top two running backs are out, who will carry the ball now?
A 6’1″, 233-pound running back, Dixon spent his first four seasons riding the bench in San Francisco. Due to the lack of playing time, the Mississippi State product only tallied 460 rushing yards on 148 carries. And he was mostly used in short-yardage situations, as his career 3.4 yards-per-carry average suggests. But now that both Jackson and Spiller are out for extended time, Dixon gets a real chance to shine.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, to get back in that workhorse role and show people what I can do,” Dixon told the Buffalo News. “I want to show people what I could do in college and high school. I feel like I really didn’t get labeled right coming out of college. People tried to do something else with me, make me somebody that I really wasn’t….put me in short-yardage, say I couldn’t run routes or I ain’t got hands. I don’t see what they’re seeing. I’m ready for the opportunity.”
This is the chance that Dixon has been waiting on ever since he was drafted. And the fifth-year back could definitely do some damage, as he showed against Minnesota last Sunday by rushing for 51 yards on 13 carries and adding 3 catches for 15 yards. However, it will take a lot for coaches to look past the limiting labels that Dixon discussed – i.e. only a short-yardage guy, no pass-catching skills.
If people aren’t so high on Dixon taking over for Jackson/Spiller, it’s because Bryce Brown has finally been pulled off the inactive list. The Bills gave up a conditional fourth-round draft pick for Brown because their ownership believes in him. There’s good reason for this too, given that Brown was once the number one-ranked high school running back. And he’s extremely fast for a 6’0″, 220-pound back, boasting a 4.4 forty time.
When given the opportunity to start two games in place of the injured LeSean McCoy in 2012, Brown responded by delivering over 370 rushing yards and four touchdowns. However, the party quickly ended when he turned in dud performances of 6 yards and 34 yards in the following two games. By the time McCoy returned, Brown was relegated back to his rarely used duties.
But this isn’t to say that there’s not plenty to like about Brown. He’s a good receiver and can break huge runs on the outside – two things that Dixon isn’t known for. And the only reasons why he’s been kept on the inactive list all season is because A) he didn’t have a role with both Jackson and Spiller, and B) he can’t play special teams.
The likely scenario here is that Brown will play most of the downs thanks to his receiving and running abilities. However, we can expect a healthy dose of Dixon too in the right matchups due to his power and great ball security. Will it all be enough to replace Spiller and Jackson? Maybe not, but there’ll still be teams with worse rushing attacks.