Can C.J. Spiller Surpass Adrian Peterson?

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Updated: July 3, 2013
CJ-Spiller

Welcome to DJ’s Chalk Talk: Off-Season Week 2! This week, we focus on one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller. The question is: Can C.J. Spiller surpass Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson as the best running back in the league this season? Let’s find out!

When Spiller wasn’t originally selected to the Pro Bowl last season, it came as a surprise to most (myself included). Last season Spiller put up career numbers, rushing for 1,244 yards while scoring eight touchdowns (six rushing and two receiving). However, Spiller’s most jaw dropping statistic was his yards per rush, an astounding 6.0 yards per carry. Spiller’s 6.0 yards per carry was second best in the league to none other than AP himself. This makes me believe that Spiller can take the torch from the Viking as the best running back in the league. If Spiller could keep up his pace while rushing the ball close to 350 times like AP, why couldn’t he be better?

Looking at the top ten running backs last season ranked by rushing yards, Spiller is eighth on the list. He attained that rank while totaling 50 less carries than any other back in the top 10, and 83 less than any running back ahead of him. This is eye popping.

As Bills fans, we all knew the story last year… Spiller didn’t truly get his chance to start until Fred Jackson was injured late in the game in Week 10 at New England. Even after the Jackson injury former Head Coach Chan Gailey still kept his reins on Spiller, taking the running back out after the occasional running play to catch a breather because he was “winded.”

By the end of the season Spiller had only totaled 20 rushing attempts in a game three times, with his highest total of 24 in Week 17 at the Ralph against the New York Jets. To put that in perspective, Peterson rushed 24 or more times in a game six times last season. Not only were Spiller’s attempts limited, but opposing teams started filling the box as the season wore on because former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick began to perform worse and worse.

The combination of not enough rushing attempts and too many defensive players in the box during plays made for a bad recipe for the Bills running back. However, Spiller was able to overcome the obstacles and prove that he is the real deal.

Luckily for Spiller, the Chan Gailey regime is gone. It is now the Doug Marrone/EJ Manuel era, which will benefit #28 tremendously.

When EJ Manuel finally takes over this team (and I imagine that to be sooner rather than later) we will start to see some play calling favor Spiller. Manuel is known as a mobile quarterback, which means he has the ability to run the offense that has jumped onto the scene in recent seasons, the read option. The read option is a type of offense that I envision Spiller to succeed in. While Spiller can run between the tackles, he is at his best with the ball outside the tackle box. Getting the ball into Spiller’s hands in the open field is a recipe for disaster for opposing defenses.

Now that C.J. is the defined No. 1 back in Buffalo and Chan is out of the way, we can expect more games with 20-plus carries, translating into more rushing yards. If C.J. Spiller can keep his yards per carry average above 5.0 yards, he can give Adrian Peterson a run for his money.

And at the same time, who says Peterson can top last year? Christian Ponder is still Minnesota’s quarterback, which means defenses will continue to load the box, which will eventually catch up to the MVP (not to mention Percy Harvin is no longer on the roster). Unlike the Vikings offense, there are new weapons all over the field for Buffalo which will take some of the attention away from Spiller.

Besides… it’s not like C.J. Spiller is that good right? He wasn’t even listed on NFL Networks Top 100 Players, while Trent Richardson, who couldn’t even reach the four yard per carry mark was. Time to prove them wrong, C.J.