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Bills running backs ecstatic over Rex Ryan hire

The Buffalo Bills had their worst rushing season since the NFL schedule expanded 36 years ago.

You better believe that kind of ineffectiveness won't fly with new coach Rex Ryan.

Ryan gets giddy over a "ground and pound" offense.

"Those are a running back's favorite words," Bills captain Fred Jackson said. "He wants to beat people running the ball."

The Bills' next offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, adheres to Ryan's smash-mouth philosophy. Roman called plays for the San Francisco 49ers the past four seasons.

"They pride themselves on running the football," Bills running back C.J. Spiller said from his home in Florida. "It's an exciting time. You have a team with a 9-7 record. Now it's time to build off that momentum."

The Bills posted their first winning record in a decade despite an anemic offense. Their 3.7 yards per carry tied for 26th in the NFL and ranked eighth-worst in club history.

The average NFL team ran on 42 percent of its snaps this season.

The Bills ran on 39 percent. The Jets ran on 48 percent, while the Niners ran 47 percent of the time.

When Ryan coached the Jets to consecutive AFC title games in his first two seasons, they ran on 59 percent and 49 percent of their plays.

Spiller was asked if the coaching switch from Doug Marrone to Ryan would affect the likelihood the running back returns to the Bills next season. Spiller's rookie contract will expire March 10.

"I'm still letting it play out," Spiller said. "It's an exciting time for the Bills Mafia to get a guy like Rex, a guy who will bring a lot of intensity and a lot of fun to work.

"But I'm just taking it one step at a time and will let the due process play out."

Spiller's alma mater gives him a Ryan connection. Spiller had his jersey retired at Clemson, where Seth Ryan plays wide receiver. Spiller and Seth Ryan have chatted a few times.

Spiller also has spoken with close Clemson friend Jacoby Ford, who spent last offseason with the Jets, about Rex Ryan.

"All the guys to play for him, they rave highly about how much they love him, about how much fun it is to play for him," Spiller said. "That just goes to show what kind of impression he makes on his players."

Could Jackson, the NFL's oldest running back, be on the verge of reinvention?

Ryan's history shows he's unafraid to let a thirtysomething running back carry the load. Thomas Jones already had a high odometer when he rushed for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns as a 31-year-old in Ryan's first season.

Ryan made faded superstar LaDainian Tomlinson a pet reclamation project after the San Diego Chargers released the three-time All-Pro.

Tomlinson was 31 years old when he rushed for 914 yards and six TDs and caught 52 passes for 368 yards. At 32 years old, Tomlinson's rushing total plummeted, but he had 42 catches for 449 yards and two TDs.

Jackson will turn 34 next month, but he doesn't have the kind of rough mileage Jones or Tomlinson showed in their early 30s.

"As a running back, that ground-and-pound theme is one you love to hear," Jackson said.

Injuries and poor blocking limited Jackson to 525 rushing yards, but he posted career-highs with 66 catches for 501 yards.

Jackson scored three touchdowns. Only in his rookie season, when he played eight games, did he score fewer.

"I'm excited about him coming here," Jackson said. "He's larger than life, and he's going to do everything to protect his name, and the best thing he can do is win football games.

"We made some improvements last year, and I'm sure that was appealing to him. He wants to get us out of this playoff drought.

"He knows what he's signing up for. That means he wants to be here and keep this thing going in the right direction."

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