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Action Jackson: Back's versatility is driving Bills' success

Every week, Bucky Brooks will bring a scout's perspective to some of the hot topics around the league.

With the Bills among the NFL's biggest surprises, one thing is becoming increasingly clear in Buffalo, the offense is built around the unique talents of Fred Jackson.

That's no disrespect to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who ranks among the league leaders in touchdowns and passer rating. However, it has been the emergence of Jackson as one of the league's most complete running backs that has the Bills as the third-ranked scoring team at 32.8 points per game.

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Jackson leads the league in total yards from scrimmage (712) and ranks third in rushing (480). He has seven runs of 20-plus yards, which is tied with Darren McFadden for the league lead, and his 5.3 yards per carry ranks fourth among players with a minimum of 60 attempts. He also has 232 yards receiving.

As a multipurpose threat, Jackson provides coach Chan Gailey with an explosive pawn to use in various formations and personnel groupings.

Against Philadelphia, Gailey featured Jackson in a variety of one-back formations. The deployment of "11" personnel (one back, one tight end and three receivers) forced the Eagles use their sub-package, which gave the Bills a favorable advantage at the point of attack. The tactic is built upon counting the number of defenders in the box and running the ball whenever the Eagles only had six near the line of scrimmage. This allows the Bills' frontline to get a blocker on each defender at the line of scrimmage and provides Jackson with the opportunity to get to the second level with little resistance.

Gailey also got Jackson involved as a receiver by calling a number of screens and shovel passes to get him loose in the open field. This was especially effective against the Eagles' wide-9 defensive alignment due to spacing created by Philadelphia's edge rushers. By having Jackson feint inside blocks before releasing out of the backdoor, the Bills were able to exploit Philadelphia's aggressiveness for big gains with deception.

The Bills have emerged as an offensive juggernaut, and it has been the clever use of Jackson that has been paramount to that success.


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The league's next great pass rusher

Jason Pierre-Paul has started to come into his own in his second season. He's blossomed into a terror off the edge with seven sacks through five games, but has also shown the versatility to slide inside and rush from a defensive tackle position.

Against the Seahawks, Pierre-Paul showcased his athleticism and skill in a 2.5-sack performance. He repeatedly exploded past blockers on speed rushes to harass Tarvaris Jackson. His first-step quickness overwhelmed Seattle rookie James Carpenter, who was unable to force Pierre-Paul off his line. Pierre-Paul later used the threat of his speed to slip inside to register another sack. His ability to vary his rushes shows tremendous growth for someone who is still relatively new to the game.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is finding different ways to take advantage of Pierre-Paul, including using him inside in sub-packages. By aligning Pierre-Paul on the edge of guards, the Giants are able to generate immediate pressure up the middle and force quarterbacks to alter their drops or step up into a wave of rushers.

Things aren't going well for Kolb

It's too early to call the Kevin Kolb trade a failure, but he has struggled mightily to make the transition to a new offense.

Kolb has a passer rating of 77.2 and completed just 58.7 percent of his throws. More importantly, he has been responsible for nine turnovers and been sacked 16 times, third-most in the NFL.

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While those numbers are far short of expectations, they should not come as a surprise based on the fact that Kolb entered the season with only seven career starts. Even though he has spent four seasons working on his craft, the pace of practice doesn't fully replicate the speed of the game. He's still adjusting to the tempo of regular-season football.

Also, the lack of a full offseason to get familiar with coaches, teammates and the playbook is certainly hindering his adjustment. Ken Whisenhunt didn't have a complete assessment of Kolb's overall game prior to the season, so the coach must adjust on the fly to put his quarterback in position to succeed. Kolb must acclimate to the speed and timing of his new receivers, and learn how to adjust to give them the best opportunity to make plays down the field. His connection with Larry Fitzgerald, in particular, must continue to evolve for the Cardinals to maximize their offensive potential.

The Cardinals invested a lot in Kolb, but they will need to continue to show patience while he works through the kinks of his learning curve.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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