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Choice reps go to Tashard as Bills try to identify goal-line back

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- When the Buffalo Bills reached the goal-line portion of Monday night's intrasquad scrimmage, running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, helmets off, watched from the sideline.

Bills fans cringed when former coach Chan Gailey would remove Spiller or Jackson from the field and insert Tashard Choice near the end zone.

That scenario replayed itself under Doug Marrone's direction when the Bills spotted the ball at the 4-yard line in Growney Stadium.

After rookie running back Kendall Gaskins handled the first series, Choice pounded away on each of the remaining three series. Choice punched through on the first two possessions, but got stuffed on the third.

"I'm pissed off I didn't get three out of three," Choice said. "I want to come back and get a chance in a game to make it happen."

After the scrimmage, I asked Marrone for his thoughts on goal-line runners and whether he's open to using a specialist.

"If you feel that your main back doesn't have maybe the girth to go over the top," Marrone said.

"And the one thing about it is that it's never really a knock on a player, and I think a lot of people perceive that. A lot of times, there are explosive plays [to get the ball] down there, and a lot of times that running back played a big part in getting you down there. You'd like to get a fresh guy in there.

"But, again, that's a role that you have to be ready for on the sideline. It's very difficult. That back has to be warmed up and ready to go at any time if you're going to use him in that role of short-yardage or goal-line."

The Bills scored only five rushing touchdowns shorter than 10 yards last year.

Spiller did it once, from 5 yards out. Two of Jackson's three touchdowns were from 1 yard away. Former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a 1-yard plunge. Brad Smith had a 4-yard run out of a Wildcat formation.

"We're actually still trying to find that role," Marrone said. "I don't think that role's been defined for us yet. We're going to take a real good look at it.

"I think when it gets down there, you want to see if there's anyone coming in, outside-in, angle-wise [defensively]. You'd like to be able to stay down low and run through that. That's what we're looking for out of our backs. Just going with the squared-up, downhill hit, I think those are a little bit tougher.

"Philosophically, depending on who we're playing, we'll have a plan whether we use a bigger package or a smaller package and what we feel gives us the best advantage against certain defenses."


C.J. Spiller | Fred Jackson | Kendall Gaskins | Tashard Choice
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |