In last week’s OTA practices, it was Fred Jackson, not LeSean McCoy, working as the Buffalo Bills’ No. 1 running back. McCoy was sidelined with a sore neck.
This week, McCoy was in the starting role that became his the moment the Bills acquired him in March via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Jackson? He was assuming his new capacity as a reserve.
McCoy ran with the considerable explosiveness and elusiveness that made him one of the top players at his position during his six seasons with the Eagles.
Jackson was his same, steady self. Nothing flashy. He just looked the way a 34-year-old player entering his ninth year in the NFL is supposed to look – like a seasoned, sturdy pro.
“Right now, I think he’s coasting,” Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn said Thursday. “He’s 34 years old, he’s taking care of himself. When the lights come on on Sundays, I do expect to see a little more pop.
“But right now, he’s doing great. And I would never bet against this guy. He’s one of the best pros I’ve been around.”
Few people would be inclined to bet against Jackson, having taken himself from being an undrafted free agent from tiny Coe College in 2006 to being a mainstay for the Bills.
Now, his mainstay days are behind him. The marquee role in the backfield belongs to McCoy, who, after having his contract reworked by the Bills, is receiving $16 million. That’s the sort of financial commitment, along with the rest of the heavy spending the team has done in the offseason, that helps raise expectations on multiple levels. The Bills are expected to make the playoffs, something coach Rex Ryan is on record as saying. And McCoy should be expected to lead the league in rushing, or least be very near the top of that category.
What becomes of Jackson at a fairly crowded position that includes two other holdovers, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown, and rookie Karlos Williams? Does he simply assume the third-down role in which he has proved so reliable during his career?
Lynn, for one, isn’t so quick to put that label on him or anyone else for that matter.
“Right now, everyone is splitting time,” the coach said. “There are no roles right now. Those roles are being evaluated right now of how you want to use guys by the time you get to training camp, preseason. But right now, everybody’s carrying a load.”
Still, once the season begins, McCoy can be expected to have the greatest load of all. Jackson, for one, recently told WGR Radio that he expects McCoy to get about 300 carries this season.
“I didn’t see that,” McCoy said when asked about his teammate’s comment. “I’m not sure. I feel like every team I have been on since high school, I have been the guy carrying the load, so I expect to do that here. Just being here, noticing we have a lot of talent – just from the wide receivers, tight ends, the guys in the backfield – there is one ball and we have got to find a way to share it out.
“Sammy” Watkins “is still hurting” as he recovers from hip surgery. “When he gets back, that is another guy. When he gets back he can stretch the field and make different plays. So it is going to be a good season with so much talent in this group. Before the trade, I really knew nothing about the offense. Just witnessing and being here and playing with so many different players, that was the first thing to jump out at me was the talent level.”
The first thing to jump out at Lynn about McCoy was his burst, which at times was stunning to watch during Wednesday’s practice, the only one of the week open to the media.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a back move through the hole quite as quick as LeSean,” Lynn said. “His quickness through the hole is pretty good. And I haven’t seen that since Fred Taylor,” whom Lynn coached with the Jacksonville Jaguars, “to be honest with you. I had LaDainian Tomlinson with the Jets when he was older in his career. But at one point, LaDainian was similar to that.
“Right now,” McCoy’s “quickness through the hole is pretty good.”
So is Jackson’s steady, professional approach, which figures to go a long way toward helping him maintain a spot on the roster.
The Bills are on the verge of breaking a 23-year-old record for season-ticket sales, according to a team source.
As of Thursday, the Bills were “very close” to the 1992 mark of 57,132. An announcement that they have broken the record is expected soon.
As first reported by The News in March, the Bills and Browns will hold joint training-camp practices at St. John Fisher College this summer.
They will be held on Monday, Aug. 17, at 10 a.m., and Tuesday, Aug. 18, at 6 p.m. Tickets will be required, but are free. Details for distribution will be announced at a later date.