DISARRAY (Part 3): Jackson needs the ball

In Part 3 of 'DISARRAY,' the BFR takes a look at one underused weapon on the Bills' offense. Fred Jackson has been instant offense all season, but doesn't see nearly enough touches, says Tyler Dunne...

Monday night's dreadful performance against Cleveland exposed Buffalo's No. 1 problem: no offensive firepower. It was bad. A new low. Buffalo's bland, dumbed down offense made castaways Kelly Holcomb, Jonathan Linton and Bobby Shaw seem like juggernauts.

This season has spiraled down to a crude game of small ball.

Trent Edwards has thrown three passes over 40 yards – 18th among quarterbacks.

Marshawn Lynch has three runs over 20 yards – 21st among running backs.

Lee Evans? He's been good for a cheap thrill every other game, but nothing of game-to-game substance.

Thankfully, the Bills do have one grossly underused weapon at their disposal. Running back/punt returner/kick returner/mailman/grocery store clerk/accountant/whatever you need every-man Fred Jackson may be a saving grace. Buffalo's backup running back gets to top-end speed faster than three-fourths of the running backs in the NFL, but he's used in only 17 percent of the time (95 carries/receptions in 558 offensive plays).

Four straight losses of CSPAN-level excitement on offense makes the message loud and clear: Get Fred Jackson the ball --- every possession. He doesn't need to eat away any of Marshawn Lynch's touches (after all, "Beast Mode" should see 30+ carries himself). But the Bills do need to get Jackson at least 10-15 rushes and 7-10 looks in the passing game.

Forget his fumble against Cleveland. Jackson is the most dangerous player on Buffalo's offense. His stride, initial burst through the (fleeting) holes in Buffalo's line and open-field ability are all unmatched. In a marginal role on the Bills' offense, Jackson has 297 yards on 72 attempts. Worse has been his usage in Buffalo's four-game cold streak. Jackson only has 33 carries through the Bills' four games of identity-searching on offense.

Instead of relying on the mash-and-dash duo of Lynch and Jackson, offensive coordinator has gone through the air too much. Edwards has attempted 119 passes in his futile four-week stretch of 3 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and a 61.5 per-game passer's rating. Schonert leaned on the run more last week, but Edwards' three giveaways were too much to overcome.

Sunday is a fresh start to re-infuse the offense with Jackson.


The Bills used Fred Jackson a little more against Cleveland.
Getty Images

On a key third-and-four conversion when Buffalo trailed the Browns 13-0, Jackson flashed his game-breaking ability on a conventional draw play. He patiently paused for a microsecond to let the blocks develop and then burst through a window on the left side. The upright, long-strided back ripped through an arm-tackle attempt by Cleveland linebacker Leon Williams, gained the edge on Willie McGinest and picked p 19 yards before getting gang-tackled.

It's time to test-drive Jackson more and more on the first three downs --- in motion, out of the backfield, draws, delays, stretch plays, throw the kitchen sink at Kansas City. The Bills do not want to engage in a back-and-forth firefight with the Chiefs. Quarterback Tyler Thigpen has been unstoppable lately. Only Kurt Warner has thrown for as much touchdowns the past four weeks (eight). If Schonert puts the ball in the air 30+ times, Buffalo will be in trouble, so play keep-a-way.

Two-back systems are taking over the NFL. The three best teams in the league (by record) all employ 1-2 punches in the backfield.

--- Sure, the gray-beared Kerry Collins has been the star the past two weeks by Tennessee is 10-0 thanks to rookie Chris Johnson (787 yards, 5 TD) and LenDale White (470 yards, 11 TD).

---The Giants' "Earth, Wind, and Fire" backfield of Brandon Jacobs Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw ranks No. 1 in the NFL at 173 yards per game and the Champs are 9-1.

---Carolina is 8-2 on the strength of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (a combined 1,295 yards, 12 touchdowns through 10 games this season).

So much for the bell cow back. San Diego and Minnesota are a combined 9-10 with odds-on, two best running backs in the NFL.

Buffalo has its tandem in place. Lynch and Jackson's styles complement each other perfectly. Unfortunately, due to inconsistent play-calling by Schonert, inconsistent play from the offensive line and consistently horrid play from Edwards, they haven't flirted with the success of the aforementioned trio of teams.

Maybe now though the line has found its groove back. Jason Peters, Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker gashed some big holes threw Shaun Rogers and Cleveland's defense. The Chiefs run defense is worse than Cleveland's too – sitting next-to-last in the NFL. KC allows a brutal 165 yards per game on the ground.

Now is the time to beef up Jackson's workload and run to glory. The entire season, Jackson has been shoelaces away from busting loose for 50+ yarders. He just needs more opportunities.

thdunne@gmail.com

Click here for Part 1 of ‘DISARRAY.'

And here for Part 2 of ‘DISARRAY.'


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