C.J. Spiller embraces unique opportunity with the New Orleans Saints


When you think of explosive and dynamic running backs that have played for Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints, you instantly think of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Reggie Bush. These three backs had rare gifts of speed, elusiveness, and playmaking ability that were unmatched. For the newly acquired C.J. Spiller, he has the potential to become the next best thing.

Spiller is definitely in one of the best positions imaginable right now. He has a coach that will focus on using his skill sets as a runner and pass catcher, a quarterback that will feed him the ball, and the perfect offensive attack that will rely on him heavily this season. He won’t just be limited to offense either, as he said today that he feels very confident with kickoff and punt returns. In team drills, Spiller was the second option to return punts behind Brandin Cooks.

C.J. Spiller‘s departure from Buffalo was not easy. He turned down a reported contract offer of $4.5 million per year from the Bills. His lack of reps on the field clearly frustrated him last season, and he often distanced himself from head coach Doug Marrone. Spiller, like many players, simply wanted to contribute. After the team traded for LeSean McCoy, it was evident that the franchise had moved on. He reportedly drew outside interest from at least five teams, and wasn’t even on the Saints radar to begin with.

"“I thought it would be a smooth cleanout. But you start packing up and keep coming across something that brings all the memories flooding back to you. It starts sinking in that you’re moving on. I’ll always be a Buffalo Bill at heart. This is where my journey began. I’ll always have love for this city and look forward to watching them play and look for them to get back to where they belong. This is a special place, and I can tell they’re building something special.”"

Spiller signed a four-year, $18 million contract with the Saints on March 13, 2015. The move was very surprising to fans, and it instantly upgraded the running back corps. Quarterback Drew Brees put things into perspective on what he brings to the Saints offense when he talked about Spiller’s potential.

"“I think he’s all-purpose,” Brees said. “He’s got some of the quickness and the speed and kind of that slash element like a Sproles but he’s bigger in stature like a Pierre and so there’s really not anything he can’t do. He can be a feature back in the base offense. He’s a guy you can free release, a guy who can block, a guy who can run screens, a guy who can do a little bit of everything. You like those guys.”"

Spiller’s best season came in 2012. He graded out as the Buffalo Bills best offensive player, grading out at a +23.4 overall on 582 snaps. His breakdown of production saw a +6.7 in receiving (251 snaps), and a +18.5 in rushing (213 snaps). Spiller finished out averaging 6.0 yards per carry on 207 rushing attempts, totaling 1,244 yards. He had five 100-yard rushing games, and scored six times on the ground. As for receiving, Spiller caught 43 balls for 459 yards. He also scored twice.

C.J. Spiller, who is set to turn 28 in August, is in the perfect situation. The Saints offense will install plays in their offense that will allow Spiller to excel in space, as he’s the true epitome of versatility. Offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief will extend screen plays. Whether Payton draws up a wheel route, run, or something else, Spiller will be ready.

“I’m just trying to get better each and every day,” Spiller said. “Once the season gets here, we’ll have a better understanding of the game plan. As of now, we haven’t had any discussions of what my role will be specifically.”

Spiller doesn’t necessarily view himself as Darren Sproles 2.0, but acknowledges his versatility. “I hope they brought me here cause they like me,” Spiller said with laughter following. “It’s obvious everyone will have that comparison with me and Sproles and me and Reggie (Bush), and I’m fine with it. But at the end of the day, all three of us are different players. You know, I’m not going to run the route like Darren Sproles ran it or Reggie ran it. I can only run it the best way I’m capable of running it.”

Spiller added that learning the new playbook is obviously hard, but fell back on his experience with Doug Marrone in Buffalo, who brought some of his Saints creativity over last year.

With one of the league’s most potent offenses, even factoring in the departures of Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, Spiller has a tremendous opportunity to thrive and shine with the black and gold. He’ll see a great deal of touches, and prove to be a giant weapon in Payton’s arsenal.