Spiller hoping for better 2011

When C.J. Spiller was selected with the No. 9 overall pick of the 2010 draft, the running back from Clemson fully expected to come to Buffalo and resuscitate a moribund offense.

It hasn't exactly worked out for him or the Bills.

"I had visions of being the poster boy of the rookie class," Spiller said recently.

Instead, he's been a disappointment, not so much to his teammates and coaches, but certainly to himself.

"I always dream big, and that has nothing to do with being cocky; I learned that you've got to dream big if you want things to happen for you," Spiller said. "I had high expectations coming into the season, and unfortunately it hasn't worked out."

Spiller rushed for 30 yards, and he caught two passes for 54 yards in Buffalo's 34-3 loss to New England. He also lost two fumbles -- one on a running play and one on a punt return.

"That was probably the worst game I've ever played," Spiller said. "Putting the ball on the ground three times, losing it twice, putting the team in bad situations. It was a tough day."

It's been a tough year for the player who made so many big plays in college, so many that the Bills felt they couldn't pass him by even though they had glaring needs on both of their lines.

For the season, Spiller has been average on returns, while he has just 278 yards rushing, 25 pass receptions for a mere 157 yards, and only one offensive touchdown as the Bills have fallen to 4-11.

Spiller was the first running back selected in the draft, yet he ranks sixth in rookie rushing yards behind Tampa Bay's LeGarrette Blount (941 yards), New Orleans' Chris Ivory, San Diego's Ryan Mathews, Detroit's Jahvid Best and Minnesota's Toby Gerhart. He's third in receptions among rookie backs behind Best (52) and Washington's Keiland Williams.

Spiller understands what has gone wrong this year, and most of it has to do with learning how to run the ball in the NFL. Unlike in college, when he could simply outrun everyone on the other team, that's not possible now. He hasn't quite grasped the concept of being patient and waiting for a block to develop, particularly on plays designed to hit between the tackles.

"I think more than anything, one of the things I talk to him about is being patient," said starting running back Fred Jackson, who clearly has learned that skill. "He's so fast, so it's hard for him to take time to find a hole. He just wants to hit the hole at top speed and go. It's one thing you learn in a rookie season."

Spiller said he's had to deal with some hate mail recently, but he said, "That's all part of it." What he's more concerned with is getting himself on track and moving forward.

"The season hasn't gone exactly the way I wanted it to, but I think I'm a totally different player than when we played (the Patriots) last," he said. "I see the progress from week to week that I'm getting better, and that's all I can ask for. Right now, it's growing pains for me, but it's all about how you respond."

Coach Chan Gailey played a key role in the selection of Spiller because, as an offensive-minded coach, he saw Spiller as a player he could find creative ways of getting the ball to. That hasn't happened, mainly because Spiller is adapting a bit slower than expected and Gailey hasn't been willing to feature him in the game plans.

He pulled Spiller as a starter after the rookie gained 7 yards on six carries against the Dolphins, and Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson have started since then.

"He's got some things to learn about protections, some things to learn about reading blocking schemes, things he didn't have to do a lot of in college," Gailey said. "He just has to learn. In five years, this will never come up."

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