Buffalo Bills: What’s Wrong With CJ Spiller?

CJ has certainly struggled this year, but is it all his fault? - Photo via ffbjocks.wordpress.com

CJ has certainly struggled this year, but is it all his fault? – Photo via ffbjocks.wordpress.com

Rewind to 2011: Fred Jackson goes down, and CJ Spiller explodes against Miami. That carried over into the 2012 season when CJ Spiller was just amazing! Chan Gailey was a guy who knew how to coach to his players’ strengths, and it appeared he had figured out the CJ Spiller enigma. Last year he was hampered by injuries, but you could see he wasn’t having the same success in Nate Hackett’s new system. Now that he’s healthy, this year has still been no different. So what’s going on with CJ Spiller? Is it his fault he’s not having success? Is it the new offense or bad blocking? Let’s take a look at a few plays over the last few weeks and see exactly what’s happening.

Here’s a run from a bunch formation with a single RB (Spiller). As you can see, there are five defenders already lined up to the left of the center. They seem to be showing man coverage. If you look to the right, there is just one defender plus the safety in the background. EJ Manuel should have read this play and either audibled to a pass or sent CJ running to the right instead of the left.


Manuel doesn’t make any corrections at the line. As the play unfolds, you see five defenders in CJ’s path and only two defenders are blocked with the safety already in good position for support. There are two Bills blockers laying on the ground and no one in front of CJ plowing the way. CJ tries to get to the outside but can’t. In my opinion this is a play that should have been changed.


This run is supposed to go to the left between tackle Cordy Glenn and guard Cyril Richardson. You can see the safety is cheating down, acting as a 3rd linebacker. The Bills are in a three-receiver formation, and there appears to be only a single safety over top on the right side of the field. EJ could audible to a pass play and throw to the receiver on the left who should have a one-on-one match-up.


CJ doesn’t get a very good hole from his blockers. Watkins has a good block on the CB. Glenn and Wood have good engagement, but a few guys (Pears and Richardson) appear lost.


Here’s a play from the Lions game. CJ is going to run to his left. The Bills are in a two-receiver, one-tight end and two-running back “I” formation. There are four guys lined up over center and to his left, so the blocking matchup is perfect. RG Pears will head for the MLB. Woods and Richardson are going to tag team Suh in the middle, and then Richardson should peel off to block the OLB.  From the looks of it, this should be a big play for Spiller.


Unfortunately, someone missed a blocking assignment.  Richardson hangs on Suh too long and can’t get out to the OLB. Everyone else was in perfect position.


Here are a few running plays that did work. You will see a nice lane form for CJ thanks to a great block by Robert Woods.


See the lane CJ has to the outside? Now, on this run I’m not sure if that was the correct hole, but either the hole up the middle or the one to the right, which you see him cut into, gives him some running room.


On this run CJ breaks it for 22 yards. You see the safety moving down into the box, leaving six defenders close to the line.


CJ gets outside and wins a one-on-one matchup with the DB.


Here’s a Fred Jackson 10-yard run under similar conditions that CJ faced. There are five defenders lined up over and to the left of the center. The run is to the left.


There’s a decent lane for Fred once he splits the blocks of Wood and Glenn. Richardson has a good block on the LB and Fred’s able to get 10 yards.


The main difference I see between CJ of 2012 and CJ of 2014 is his ability to hit a hole. I am not a Nate Hackett fan. He has a ton of weapons that he has no idea how to use. They are trying to be a read option running team, but the read option hasn’t worked all year. The read option actually hurts the running backs. It is more like a delayed handoff. Since our QB never kept the ball, teams just focused on the RBs. They need to go spread with four receivers and leave Scott Chandler on the bench. Running four receivers forces the defense to have six DB’s on the field. (four CB’s and two Safeties). When there are less big guys on the field, CJ does better. His YPC goes from three to 6.5!

For some reason Hackett loves using his FB and TE with only two or three receivers. Even when they try to get CJ in space with a screen, we don’t have guards that can actually block screens well. Our offense is rather predictable as teams have said. Hackett, to me, isn’t ready for the NFL. As Orton gets more comfortable with the offense, let’s see if things change. Perhaps Hackett is hampered by an inexperienced QB in EJ Manuel. Whatever it is, they need to fix it. We need more production from the offense especially in the red zone. We went and got Mike Williams for his jumping ability but have yet to throw a fade pass to him in the end zone. Instead, they try those to the shorter Robert Woods. Hackett and Marrone also limit the freedom a QB has to change the play.

I heard Marrone say this week that they have plays they just line up and run and they even tell the QB what he can change to at the line. You can’t run an offense like that from the side line. You have to trust your QB to read the defense and make a decision on the fly. Micro-managing coaches don’t last in the NFL.

Well that’s my take on CJ Spiller and the run game. What do you think, Bills Nation; is it all CJ? Is it all Hackett? Would you rather see Bryce Brown? As always leave me a comment here, and make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @wgoinbuffalo and @jasonsins.

By: Jason Sins


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