Thursday August 25th, 2011

Fred Jackson has expressed dissatisfaction over his role in the Bills' offense this preseason. (Richard Mackson/US Presswire)

There aren't a lot of spots on their depth chart that you'd consider the Bills to be in really good shape. Running back is an exception.

In Fred Jackson and 2010 first-round pick C.J. Spiller, Buffalo has a dynamic 1-2 punch that combined for 1,582 yards rushing and receiving in 2010, despite the Bills' mediocre offensive line and dismal quarterback play.

A total of 1,142 of those yards belonged to Jackson, down from the 1,433 he put up in 2009 but impressive nonetheless. It's because of that production that Jackson is convinced he should be the Bills' No. 1 running back -- his drop to the No. 2 spot for Buffalo's preseason game last weekend left him more than a little miffed.

"I feel like a No. 1 back," Jackson said. "I feel like I should be treated like one, know what's going on, know where I stand and what the situation is."

You can understand Jackson's dissatisfaction, to a degree. He's played like a No. 1 back when given the opportunity over the past two, arguably even three, seasons. And he's producing despite being underpaid at $2 million per season.

Yet ...

a) It's the preseason. You can't fault a guy for wanting to start every game or wanting to stay ahead of his positional competition on the depth chart, but this is what the exhibition schedule is for -- to find out what players can do.

The Bills used the No. 9 overall pick on Spiller last season, even with Jackson around. So it makes sense that they'd want to find out how much progress Spiller has made from Year One to Year Two.

b) Buffalo needs both guys.

As far as arguments go, this is probably the strongest card the Bills can play. We've seen just about every single team in the NFL stock up depth at running back under the assumption that players at that position will get banged up. It's not a criticism of Jackson that Buffalo would want to have another reliable option -- Spiller showed promise last year but not that he could carry the load.

Truth be told, as much as Buffalo may like fullback Corey McIntyre, the offense may be at its most dangerous with both Spiller and Jackson on the field together. The Bills have been working on those formations in practice and figure to use them.

Given those QB issues we've already covered (Ryan Fitzpatrick had far and away his best season in 2010 but no one will confuse him with Tom Brady) and the loss of Lee Evans out wide, Buffalo's pretty thin when it comes to the skill positions.

Between Jackson and Spiller, though, the Bills should be able to do some damage. It can't be a one-or-the-other proposition.

Look, there's a reason Buffalo drafted Spiller, even if his rookie season was a disappointment. He's versatile and explosive, the latter a trait he displayed as the team's kick and punt returner last year. No matter how much Jackson wants to be on the field, the Bills are going to find a way to use Spiller.

It's fine if Jackson wants to know what that means for him and his future in Buffalo -- it'd be silly if he wasn't curious. But given that, the best thing -- both for the Bills' offense and the health of their two backs -- is for both Jackson and Spiller to be productive. Even if that means a few less carries for Jackson.

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