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Gailey: Rookie RB Spiller is Bills' starter over Lynch, Jackson

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It took just a few months for rookie C.J. Spiller to win the Buffalo Bills' starting running back job and elevate expectations that the team's anemic offense just might have a semblance of a spark.

The one thing Spiller's careful of is to remind everyone that he can't do it alone.

"It's going to take a team effort to get to where we want to go, and I'm just glad to be a part of that," Spiller said Wednesday. "I mean, it's not going to be a one-man show."

No, but it sure looks that way after Spiller ran away with the job by displaying his dynamic potential this preseason. Despite missing the first week of training camp while negotiating his first contract, the ninth player selected in the draft turned out being a quick and electrifying study.

Spiller scored three touchdowns in three preseason games -- all against first-stringers -- and finished with 26 carries for 122 yards. He added three catches and even showed potential in running plays out of the Wildcat formation.

That was enough for first-year Bills coach Chan Gailey to tab Spiller as a starter for Sunday, when the team opens the season at home against the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins.

And Gailey noted his decision likely would have been the same even if Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch -- the two split the starting duties last season -- didn't miss most of the preseason because of injuries.

"I think he showed in college that he was a dynamic player. And I think that he's shown in his few reps here that he is a very good player," Gailey said of Spiller. "He's done a good job and he's earned the spot."

Jackson is set to return after missing nearly a month, but he will be limited while wearing a pad to protect his surgically repaired left hand. Lynch returned in the preseason finale after missing three weeks because of an ankle injury.

While both will receive their share of playing time, Spiller is expected to be a primary focal point, meaning he will see more attention from opposing defenses.

"Now everybody kind of knows what I'm capable of doing, so of course, the bull's-eye's probably going to get bigger, and I've got to be prepared," Spiller said, noting that's nothing new after his successful career at Clemson.

"That's a good thing to have because I can open doors for everybody else," Spiller added. "If a team's just going to focus on one guy, I wish them well."

Spiller, the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, finished his four-year college career with 51 touchdowns, including 32 rushing. He also became just the second college player -- joining Reggie Bush -- to finish with 3,000 yards rushing, 1,500 yards in kickoff returns, 1,000 yards receiving and 500 yards in punt returns.

Spiller's impact with the Bills was apparent last month. Aside from his running ability, his presence in the backfield kept defenses guessing and opened up Buffalo's passing attack.

In a 34-21 victory Aug. 19, Bills quarterback Trent Edwards caught the Indianapolis Colts napping. Faking a hand-off to Spiller, Edwards dropped back and hit a wide-open Lee Evans for a 70-yard touchdown.

In a 35-20 Bills victory one week later, the Cincinnati Bengals opened by neutralizing Spiller. Edwards took advantage by going 5-of-5 passing for 48 yards to cap a touchdown drive with a 12-yard toss to Roscoe Parrish.

"He takes a lot of pressure off our passing game," Edwards said of Spiller. "I think if you have that run threat, you're going to keep defenses off balance. You're not going to be so predictable, the pass rush isn't going to come as hard. And that just helps having that element in your offense."

Buffalo's offense could use all the help it can get after having finished no better than 25th in the NFL in yards gained in each of the past seven seasons.

Spiller's anxious and excited to make his regular-season debut. And it makes no difference that it comes against his home-state Dolphins.

Spiller, who's from Lake Butler, Fla., didn't root for any specific NFL team, though he recalled his mother buying him a Dolphins jersey when he was young.

"I never really became a fan of their team," he said. "I didn't like them. I didn't dislike them."

Spiller, though, is partial to the No. 21 Bills jersey he's wearing these days.

"Oh yeah, this uniform fits great," Spiller said. "It's tight. And it's what I need so I can be ready to run."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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