Fred Jackson isn't the first name you think of when you talk about the Bills. After all, he's just a backup running back. You have Terrell Owens, Marshawn Lynch, Lee Evans and Trent Edwards on top of the marquee. At best, Jackson is fifth on the list.
But you should get to know Jackson this year. He's going to be an impact player. The prediction here is Jackson will be best running back in Buffalo this season.
"It's a year that can be a coming-out party for me," Jackson said in a phone interview. "I can showcase my game and make a name for myself."
Jackson has spent the past two years as the No. 2 running back behind Lynch. When given a chance, Jackson has been stellar. It just hasn't happened often.
In 2007, Lynch missed two games with an ankle injury. Jackson had 151 total yards at Washington and 121 total yards against Miami. Last year, with Lynch dealing with a shoulder problem toward the end of the season, Jackson had three games with over 100 total yards and scored two touchdowns in December. He finished with 571 rushing yards and three touchdowns and 37 catches for 317 yards.
Now comes 2009, and Jackson has a chance to shine with Lynch suspended three games for violating the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy. In March, Lynch pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge in Los Angeles, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is forcing Lynch to miss the first three games of the season. That means Jackson will start and get the majority of carries.
If he starts out playing well at New England, vs. Tampa Bay and vs. New Orleans in the first three weeks, you might start to know his name then.
"When Marshawn does come back, I want to make it hard for them to take me off the field," Jackson said.
|Week 13 at WAS||16 car., 82 yds., four rec., 69 yds.|
|Week 14 vs. MIA||15 car., 115 yds., one rec., 6 yds.|
|Week 2 at JAC||Six car., 17 yds, seven rec., 83 yds.|
|Week 7 vs. SD||Nine car., 33 yds., three rec., 28 yds.|
|Week 11 vs. CLE||12 car., 60 yds|
|Week 15 at NYJ||Seven car., 31 yds., one TD, six rec., 24 yds.|
|Week 16 at DEN||10 car., 43 yds., one TD, three rec., 70 yds.|
|Week 17 vs. NE||27 car., 136 yds.|
Jackson has several things working in his favor. He wants to prove he's worth the four-year contract extension he signed in May and show he's an every-down back. He is a good receiver out of the backfield and should benefit from the Bills new no-huddle offense. And there aren't a lot of expectations for Jackson since Lynch is considered the star running back, and Buffalo also brought in Dominic Rhodes this offseason.
Jackson, 28, has always gone unnoticed, at least in NFL circles. He went undrafted out of Division III Coe College, which is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and spent his first season with the Bills on the practice squad in 2006. Prior to that, he played in the United Indoor Football League and also NFL Europe with the Rhein Fire.
"It's not like people know a lot about me," Jackson said. "I'm not a household name."
But the Bills are aware of his game and think he can be productive with Lynch out. The no-huddle offense is something Jackson said he played in for a year in college, when he rushed for 1,702 yards and scored 29 touchdowns as a senior in 2002.
Buffalo's offense has the chance to be explosive this season with the addition of Owens, and Edwards is ready to take the next step in his career in his third year. With Evans, the passing game should be able to open things up for the running backs.
Jackson said getting Owens was a big factor.
"He's going to help us out a lot," Jackson said. "Everyone is excited he's here. Any time you can add someone like T.O., he opens a variety of things that we can do. He's a big-play guy that defenses have to account for."
Jackson said the offensive line, which lost a big piece in tackle Jason Peters when he was traded to Philadelphia, is "a work in progress," but he's confident "they will do a great job" once the season starts. They have to for Jackson to have success, and he knows it.
The key for Jackson will be what happens when Lynch returns. Coach Dick Jauron has said the addition of Rhodes was to ease the pressure on all three running backs and keep Lynch healthy for the latter half of the season, which is when his injuries have occurred.
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But Jackson has set a goal for himself of 1,500 total yards. That might be unrealistic if Lynch is healthy once he comes back, but Lynch had 1,336 total yards last year, so the opportunity is there for Jackson with increased touches.
In limited time, Jackson has been more productive than Lynch. Jackson has just eight games with at least 12 touches and produced five games with over 100 total yards. Lynch has 27 games with at least 12 touches and has produced only eight games with over 100 total yards.
Give Jackson more touches, and he will produce. This isn't to suggest Lynch will be a total bust, but Jackson has a three-game head start and an opportunity to be successful. He's someone you will know by the end of the season.
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