Catching you up on the latest must-read news and analysis from around the web …
• C.J. Spiller's 1,703 yards from scrimmage last season were the sixth highest total in the league. And yet, there was the sense that the Bills could have better or more frequently gotten the football to their star back.
It sounds as if those problems may be a thing of the past. New Buffalo offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett plans to get Spiller involved plenty, if what he told WGR 550 radio is true.
"It's real simple," Hackett said, according to the Buffalo News. "We're going to give him the ball until he throws up. So he's either got to tap out or throw up on the field. Let's just put it that way."
Bills fans (and fantasy football owners) probably love hearing that. Even though Fred Jackson is back for his seventh season with the team, Spiller distanced himself from his running mate in the backfield last season. Spiller averaged 6.0 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per reception, compared to 3.8 and 6.4 for Jackson, respectively.
Hackett and first-year head coach Doug Marrone have brought the promise of an up-tempo offensive system with them to Buffalo. Add in the possibility that athletic rookie QB E.J. Manuel could win the starting job, and Spiller's totals could skyrocket even further in 2013.
The only question is: Can he handle the workload? He had 100 more rushing attempts last season than he did in 2011, and Hackett appears ready to shove that number closer to 300. That would mark a healthy uptick in Spiller's touches for the second straight season.
Barring an injury, though, it's hard to find the downside in getting the ball in Spiller's hands more often.
• The Carolina Panthers' bandwagon has been picking up passengers all offseason, with many believing they could challenge for an NFC South title this season. Front and center in that quest, as always, will be quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton's maturity and sideline demeanor have been lambasted, heavily at times, during his NFL career. He said on WFNZ radio that he's heard the critics.
"I’d be lying to you if [I said] it didn’t get under my skin at least once," Newton said, per CBS Charlotte. "But I realize, as I mature as a veteran, I realize it’s going to happen."
Wide receiver Steve Smith, himself a bit of a lightning rod for the finger-wagging crowd due to his on-field swagger, said that Newton has improved as a presence in the locker room.
"A patch does not make you a captain, but it also does not limit you to being a leader," Smith said. "It’s really not, What do I see that [has] shown me that he is mature. It’s ultimately how we handle as a group adversity ... and what truly defines competitors is what happens when we win."
• The 2013 season of Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga seemed to be over when he tore his ACL during the team's scrimmage last Saturday. But ... maybe not.
Bulaga apparently will try to play through that torn ACL, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported.
"There's nothing wrong with hoping for a miracle," general manager Ted Thompson said.
Assuming that Bulaga's Hail Mary does not work, the Packers have fallback options. The onus for replacing Bulaga on Aaron Rodgers' blindside could fall to rookie David Bakhtiari. Our own Doug Farrar took a closer look earlier this week at what Bakhtiari brings to the table.
• Riley Cooper returned to Eagles practice on Tuesday, less than a week after the team excused him so he could seek counseling after video of Cooper shouting a racial slur surfaced.
With Jeremy Maclin and now Arrelious Benn down for the season, the reasoning behind Philadelphia's decision to keep Cooper have become clearer. So, how might Chip Kelly utilize the fourth-year receiver? Michael Schottey offers some ideas.
• The Denver Broncos may have a competition on their hands at free safety, thanks to undrafted second-year man Duke Ihenacho. The San Jose State product has been impressive thus far in camp, according to the Denver Post. So impressive, in fact, that Ihenacho might bump Mike Adams from the starting lineup. "Duke is playing well right now," Adams told the Post. "He's in that leading role, and I'm proud of him. He's hungry. He's going to get it. But it's not even the first preseason game. We've still got a long way to go and more competition, and as it goes on, it's going to get more and more interesting."