AFC East News: C.J. Spiller and Austin Howard
The Buffalo Bills already have a top pass blocking running back in all-around star RB Fred Jackson, but it looks like the young C.J. Spiller has become a good pass protector in his own right.
“C.J. is right on the money,” said Chan Gailey. ”He knows everything now. It is not as easy as some people might think to figure it out. But he has it all down pat.”
Earlier in his career, Spiller was a tremendous liability in pass protection, even as recently as last season. It’s what contributed to less playing time for the RB (less than 3.5 touches per game in 2011), but Spiller has made huge strides in that department during training camp. The Bills are going to be utilizing Spiller far more often this season as the young, explosive back has improved.
Both Fred Jackson and Spiller are talented backs, so it is important that both put the team before themselves. Juggling snaps between two top running backs is a good problem to have, but it can become a “bad” problem quickly if egos get in the way. Jackson is still better than Spiller, but the 25-year-old’s explosiveness adds a new dimension to Buffalo’s offense.
The New York Jets finally relieved Wayne Hunter of his starting duties at right tackle yesterday, and I guess his performance against the New York Giants (three sacks, nearly four) was a big wake up call to Rex Ryan and the coaching staff.
The new starter is former Philadelphia Eagles backup left tackle Austin Howard, who was an undrafted free agent out of Northern Iowa and a two-sports star over there in basketball and football. The 6’6″ tackle looks like at least a minor upgrade over Hunter in pass protection, as he has great foot speed, solid size, and a ton of athleticism. While Howard does have upside, his inexperience is a bit concerning (just four appearances and one start in his career).
However, the New York Jets believe that he can be an effective starter in this league (Insider). He is a question mark, but the upside, talent, and athletic ability are there. The only question is if Howard can put it together and become a legitimate starter. It looks like the Jets believe that he’s an upgrade over Hunter, and it’s hard to argue with that. Although, it’s not hard to be better than a player who allowed 8.5 sacks and was penalized 11 times last year.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.