Fred Jackson back atop the depth chart
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Running back Fred Jackson doesn't have time to question the reasoning behind why the Buffalo Bills traded Marshawn Lynch to Seattle -- though he was aware a deal had been in the works.
What matters to Jackson is providing the Bills' sputtering offense a sense of identity now that he's reclaimed the starting job he had in taking over for Lynch midway through last season.
"That's the business side of it, that's what they handle upstairs," Jackson said, before practice Wednesday, a day after Lynch was traded to the Seahawks in exchange for draft picks. "All we can do is come out here on the field and play with the guys we have. We have to focus on going out and winning football games."
And that's been the problem for the winless Bills, who are going through another round of upheaval in preparing to host Jacksonville (2-2) on Sunday.
Last week Buffalo was shuffling quarterbacks after the team cut former starter Trent Edwards, who has since signed with the Jaguars and will serve as the team's backup this weekend. This week it's running backs, as the Bills came to the conclusion that three is, in fact, a crowd.
Lynch's departure frees up more carries for both Jackson and rookie first-round pick C.J. Spiller, who's yet to provide the spark he showed in scoring three touchdowns this preseason.
In his first opportunity to discuss the trade, coach Chan Gailey wouldn't provide details of the timing of the move even though Lynch had first asked to be dealt well before the Bills drafted Spiller.
"I don't get into sooner or later, there's a lot of things that go into decisions like this," he said. "You're trying to do what's best for your team. And it worked out that a trade was made, and we're fortunate we have two good players that can carry the load for us the rest of the way."
Gailey said he's leaning on Jackson because, as a fourth-year player, he has more experience. And he intends to get Spiller more involved. Spiller has scored a touchdown receiving and another on a kickoff return, but has only 49 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Lynch had received the bulk of the work in starting the past three games, and led the team with 37 carries -- three more than Jackson and Spiller had combined -- for 164 yards. That left Jackson and Spiller splitting limited playing time because the Bills offense was either having difficulty sustaining drives or forced to play catch-up by going primarily with a passing attack.
Not much has worked on an offense that's failed to generate 230 yards in three of its four games, and averaging 13.5 first downs.
The Bills all but bottomed out in a 38-14 loss to the Jets last weekend. It was a game in which quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team with 74 yards rushing, Buffalo went 0 for 10 in third-down conversions and finished with 19:31 in time of possession.
Enter Jackson, who had a breakout season last year in finishing with a team-leading and career-best 1,062 yards rushing.
Jackson learned of his promotion upon arriving for team meetings Wednesday and shortly after he wished Lynch well with his new team during a phone conversation.
"Now it's my time to stand up here and try to make plays," Jackson said. "It's going to be a challenge. It always is, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."
The trade didn't catch Jackson by surprise because he said Lynch had kept him up to date on the progress of trade talks over the past few weeks.
Spiller, selected ninth overall out of Clemson, was surprised by the move, saying he thought a three-back rotation had a chance to work. Spiller, however, acknowledged he's having difficulty finding his niche.
"I'm still unsure what my role is," Spiller said. "It's kind of disappointing that you don't really know. But at the same time, you know what you can bring to this team. I stay encouraged by that. So you just wait your turn and try to help the team any way you can."
Fitzpatrick wasn't surprised by the trade, given how the offense has sputtered and the team is winless.
"Well, there's never a dull moment in the NFL, especially when you're losing," Fitzpatrick said. "It's just one of those things we had talked about, crowded backfield and trying to get everybody touches. Hopefully, it works out for Marshawn, and hopefully, it works out well for us."
On the injury front, linebacker Andra Davis returned to practice and hopes to play against Jacksonville despite revealing he has a shoulder injury that will likely require surgery.
Davis said he has limited movement in his shoulder -- he didn't say which one -- but said it shouldn't prevent him from playing because there's little chance of him doing further damage.
"Right now, it's OK," Davis said. "But right now, the situation we're in, we've got to suck it up and go."
Gailey didn't provide an update on Davis except to say he was expected to practice.
Davis is a nine-year NFL veteran, who signed with the Bills this offseason to serve as the defensive play-caller as the team made the switch to a 3-4 defense. Buffalo is off to an 0-4 start, and its defense has struggled against the run in allowing a combined 473 yards rushing in its past two games.
Davis said he was initially hurt in a season-opening 15-10 loss to Miami. He said he aggravated the injury further in a 38-30 loss at New England on Sept. 26, which forced him to miss last weekend's game against the New York Jets.
Defensive end Marcus Stroud returned to practice after missing last week's game with a left ankle injury. Stroud said he expects to play this weekend.
Safety Bryan Scott (knee), linebacker Keith Ellison (knee), linebacker Arthur Moats (elbow) and cornerback Ashton Youboty (hamstring) didn't practice. Starting cornerback Terrence McGee has already been ruled out after having minor knee surgery last weekend.
Tight end Shawn Nelson returned to practice after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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