By Tim Graham
Of the bigger-name Buffalo Bills, one who has flown a tad under the radar this summer is running back C.J. Spiller.
There have been no unusual developments with him. He hasn't made any headline-grabbing declarations. He got one touch in last week's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.
But among his teammates, Spiller has been turning heads.
"We were just talking about it," Bills receiver David Nelson told me Tuesday night at St. John Fisher College. "You can see it on the practice field. He's running around and making guys look silly.
"It's a special thing to see how far he's come from last year's camp to this year's camp. It's evident."
The conversation about Spiller began as an offshoot of a discussion Nelson and I were having about the Bills' receiving corps. Nelson mentioned Spiller as a target that will help the passing game. So I asked if Spiller is more receiver or running back now.
"Slash," Nelson said. "He can do it all. The guy's a special talent.
"The way's being patient now and hitting the holes. Last year, you saw him running up some of the linemen's backs, just rushing things. Now you see him being patient. He's hitting that cut, and he's gone."
The game seemed to slow down for Spiller last November, when workhorse back Fred Jackson suffered a broken leg in Week 11.
Spiller got the last six starts and was brilliant, rushing for 446 yards and three touchdowns and catching 24 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. The opponents in that stretch included all three of the Bills' divisional opponents.
Spiller's numbers would translate into this for a full season: 1,189 yards rushing, eight rushing TDs, 64 catches, 499 receiving yards, five receiving TDs.
"You have that moment," Nelson said, "where the light comes on and you just realize 'I belong.' For certain guys it comes later. For some guys it happens right away. He got the confidence of his coaching staff and teammates and that experience of being the guy in games.
"He really used that in the offseason, and he's building on that. I think he's going to be a special player for us. I'm excited to see what we can do with him and Fred together. You can't stop both of them."
(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)