Writing off C.J. Spiller now would be like leaving the Oilers playoff game at halftime. Unlike those who claimed to have skulked back into the stadium when the magnificent turnaround began, the preemptive search for a new rusher would be harder than claiming that you didn’t bail prematurely.
Sticking with a supremely talented back for as long as he’s under contract despite a season of improper handling remains their most prudent present course. Continuing to pair him with everyone’s favorite youthful 33-year-old Fred Jackson is both comforting and liberating, as the Bills recognize they can upgrade merely by using players they already have properly.
This draft is as much about who they’re not adding versus who’s coming aboard. Doug Whaley has already established this season’s commitment to running with what they have by ignoring free agent rumors. Specifically, Chris Johnson is five years younger and far more worn than Jackson, which means he’s a perfect fit for the Jets. A bad attitude won’t help. More importantly, his track record is irrelevant toward efforts to gain and score this season.
A healthy Spiller is the best cure for worrying about adding his eventual replacement. The Bills can contribute to his health by clearing territory for him. Making a lucky right tackle the ninth player off the board would enable skill to thrive via application of brute force. Those of us who have backed adding a linebacker first can’t really be upset if this franchise adds a potentially dominant line-filler on the other side. Whether through making the defense dominant or making the offense better, they can’t go wrong by adding at any position of need.
Specifically, improving their fringe running could start with a new edge blocker. The Bills could open the sidelines as a frontier for Spiller, who just happens to be best when reaching open space. A right tackle who could spring him would help a young quarterback, which is in turn a blessing for an already-solid defense.
By fortuitous coincidence, there are offensive tackles to be had that deserve top-10 status. The only thing wrong with Jake Matthews is that someone who picks before the Bills likes him as much. In that case, management could hope that Auburn’s Greg Robinson is better than the identically-named putz Doug Marrone replaced at Syracuse.
Even confidence in the top pick is tempered by the variety of alternatives. The broad challenge of having so many roster spots and positions makes football drafting feel overwhelming. Life as a NFL GM is like spinning plates to the Sabre Dance, even though the Sabres equivalent arguably has fewer headaches thanks to the relative straightforwardness of that sport. Tim Murray’s job isn’t easier, but it is simpler.
Whaley may feel envious of hockey general managers who essentially choose from four positions, which is reduced to three if teams can turn centers into wingers or vice versa. Hockey also has the advantage of decent playing time to go around even at the same positions, which is not an option available to, say, quarterbacks.
But at least Whaley has already addressed one major decision. He can be confident in his running back platoon for at least another season. Now, the front office is free to make the backs’ jobs more pleasant. It’s easy to think about the position the Bills won’t fill opening night, so begin training not to do so now. Instead, this franchise can be glad to make one significant positional upgrade. Best of all, they can help the talent they already possess. There’s no hand-off yet.