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Wayne Post
  • The Forgotten Bill: Fred Jackson more than just a back-up

  • The veteran running back is a back-up once again, but not because of poor performance. Jackson has played 10 games each of the last two seasons, including an injury six carries into his 2012 season. It has allowed C.J. Spiller to emerge into a dangerous offensive weapon and has relegated Jackson into the same role he had when he debuted with the Bills in 2007.

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  • In case you forgot, Fred Jackson is still a member of the Buffalo Bills.
    In fact, Jackson remains one of the team’s most important players this season.
    The veteran running back is a back-up once again, but not because of poor performance. Jackson has played 10 games each of the last two seasons, including an injury six carries into his 2012 season. It has allowed C.J. Spiller to emerge into a dangerous offensive weapon and has relegated Jackson into the same role he had when he debuted with the Bills in 2007.
    It’s a role Jackson is familiar with, but one he is embracing.
    “I treat him like a little brother,” said Jackson. “We don’t just talk on the football field, we talk off the field and hang out and do stuff like that. You want to see guys like that succeed and hopefully you can be a part of it.”
    As exciting as Spiller can be with the ball in his hands, the Bills are a more formidable running attack when he and Jackson are healthy.
    “I feel very good that we have both C.J. and Fred back there, who have done a good job and have been very productive players,” said Bills first-year head coach Doug Marrone. “We expect them to be productive in this upcoming year.”
    Jackson once formed a strong rushing duo with Marshawn Lynch and had a breakout season in 2009. That year is still his only 1,000-yard season and one in which Jackson set a career high with 46 catches and an NFL-best 2,516 all-purpose yards.
    Jackson followed it up with 927 rushing yards in 2010 before a stellar start to his 2011 season. Before breaking his leg in a blow-out loss at Miami, Jackson was on his way to an All-Pro season with 934 yards in those 10 games to go with 39 catches and a career-best 442 receiving yards.
    Despite injuries cutting short his last two seasons, Jackson has remained a serious threat as a receiver with 73 total receptions the past two seasons. Jackson also added seven to eight pounds of muscle in the off-season.
    “I think hopefully it translates into me staying healthier and being on the field a lot longer this year,” said Jackson.
    Jackson, an undrafted free agent out of Coe College, is one of the Bills’ elder statesmen now. Among players on the current roster, only kicker Rian Lindell and defensive tackle Kyle Williams have been with the Bills longer.
    Jackson is playing for his fourth different head coach and fifth offensive coordinator, and the veteran running back has never been anywhere close to appearing in a playoff game. Now with Marrone and boisterous offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the Bills are expected to huddle less — if at all — and speed will be the name of their game.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s different than what I’ve seen here the last seven years, but I think we’re headed in the right direction,” said Jackson. “I’m very excited about everything we’re doing with the new offense and Nate getting happy about everything and it’s good to play for somebody like that.”
    Hackett also famously stated in a radio interview with WGR550 out of Buffalo that he planned to give Spiller the ball until he “throws up.”
    The more understated Marrone admitted that he spoke to Hackett about that comment but expects the Bills to use a heavy dose of Spiller in 2013.
    “I’m quite different than coach Hackett in how I express myself,” Marrone said. “As coaches we have to be careful with what we say … I think we all knew what he meant, but, again, in this day in age not everybody who is not involved in the game of football truly understands that.
    “We have a back that’s special,” added Marrone. “We want to be able to give him enough touches during the year where he becomes effective throughout the year. It’s a talent we want to be able to lean on.”
    Ending the franchise’s 13-year playoff drought is high on his list of goals for this season, but the first thing will be staying healthy and putting together 16 games for the first time since 2010.
    “I’ve got numbers I’d like to hit but the number one goal is to stay healthy and help my team,” said Jackson. “If I’m injured then I can’t do anything for them.”
    While Spiller stated his goal of reaching 2,000 yards, Jackson is satisfied with flying under the radar for now.
    “You should always have a goal like that coming into a season,” said Jackson. “That’s a great goal to have and if he could get to it then he’d be one of very few to do that. ... That’s what I’m going to do, continue to fly under the radar and when my number is called I’ll go out and make plays for my team.”
    Between Spiller and the attention surrounding rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, Jackson has become a bit of a forgotten man.
    “All of the talent we have in here there are guys making plays,” said Jackson. “Guys are getting opportunities and we’re excited about it just like everybody else.
    “You’ve got to give those guys all the credit they deserve. EJ is doing a tremendous job and CJ has done a tremendous job the past two seasons, so they’re going to get a lot of the attention.”
    While the Bills certainly will lean heavily on Spiller, both he and the Bills’ offense will be at their best when Jackson also is at the top of his game.
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