The locker is now completely empty.
When Fred Jackson was cut, his locker was still full of clothes and fan mail. On Tuesday, it was cleared out. Life, indeed, goes on for the Buffalo Bills after losing their longtime leader.
LeSean McCoy is the obvious No. 1 back and still working toward a Week 1 return off his hamstring injury. Who will be the No. 2 back this season? It sure sounds like it'll be Karlos Williams.
Before undergoing a medical procedure midway through camp, the fifth-round pick out of Florida State was on track to be McCoy's back-up. Now that he's back practicing, running backs coach Anthony Lynn indicated Williams can earn this role.
"Right before Karlos got hurt, Karlos was at the No. 2 spot," said Lynn, then citing fourth-year back Bryce Brown. "It’s been a good competition between him and Bryce, though. And in my opinion, it’s still going on. You just create a competition and whoever goes out and performs the best, they’ll get in the rotation.”
While that competition is ongoing, Williams can "absolutely" earn the No. 2 job, Lynn said.
The fact that Williams is still new to the running back position works to his advantage. Lynn and the Bills haven't had to undo bad habits. The former safety has been decisive, explosive, better than expected.
"He was like a sponge," Lynn said. "He was growing leaps and bounds. And that surprised me but it probably shouldn’t have because he’s played the position only a year and a half. So you tell him to do something and he does it. You don’t have any bad habits where you’re trying to re-train a guy. He just shot up the depth chart. He had a good scrimmage, had a good game and he had some good practices so he definitely deserves a shot as the No. 2.”
Fully healthy? “Right now, he looks healthy as hell to me.”
Of course, midway through camp Lynn was critical of Brown's fumbling. He described fixing this as a “process” on Tuesday, one that can’t be corrected in a month. Brown’s receiving ability has stood out. Now, Lynn wants him to run to his size.
Said Lynn, “He has some burst, some quicks and he’s a 230-pound man. I just need to get him to run like that more often."
When the Bills cut Jackson, Boobie Dixon said he "froze" and “shook,” stunned by the news. Two days after ripping off a 41-yard run vs. Pittsburgh, the release blindsided teammates. So those first two days in the meeting room at One Bills Drive, Lynn’s backs were quiet.
And there can be a value to such quiet.
“There was a shock to everybody’s system,” he said. “No one saw it coming. And if you can touch Fred, you can touch anybody in this room. And that’s not a bad thing, that’s not a bad thing.
“I don’t know if you can ever replace that kind of production. Even though you bring in Shady and you know he’s going to be highly productive — at least we hope — you’re still going to lose something when you lose Fred Jackson. He just meant so much to the team, the organization and I just wish him the best.”
Jackson's release surely sent a shockwave through the fan base, too. But on the field, faith in Williams probably helped the Bills make the move.