Fred Jackson best third-down RB this year

Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (22) rushes into the end zone for at touchdown during the third quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson had an off year in 2012 due to a knee injury that he returned early- but never recovered- from, but he is back to his best form this season. The return to form couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bills, as No. 1 back C.J. Spiller has been a tremendous disappointment. After leading the league in yards per carry last season, the uber-talented Clemson product has been a dud this season, which is a shame since the Bills are doing whatever they can to get him to put up elite numbers. The offensive line has had issues due to the loss of Andy Levitre, but that certainly hasn’t stopped Fred Jackson.

Through five games this season, Jackson is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and a little over 60 yards per game. One of the best all-around backs in the NFL due to his hands and pass protection, Jackson has also managed to haul in 17 passes. His ability to impact the passing game helps make him an ideal third-down back, and he has also made a huge impact on third downs as a rusher.

According to Pro Football Reference, Fred Jackson leads the league with the most rushing yards on third down, as he has carried the rock 12 times for 79 yards on these critical plays. That’s an average of 6.6 yards per carry, and Jackson has easily been the most proficient running back on third downs. If you look at the top five leaderboard for rushing yards on third down, the next four players are all quarterbacks (Michael Vick has just one yard less than Jackson, Andrew Luck has two touchdowns, and Alex Smith makes an interesting appearance in fifth).

Fred Jackson is averaging about 92 yards from scrimmage per game, and the Buffalo Bills have themselves the league’s best RB tandem (the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens may have something to say about that). Coming into the season, the Bills wanted to hand all the keys to Spiller, but that plan has definitely shifted due to Spiller’s struggles (he’ll get better, though) and Jackson’s excellence.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter for more NFL updates and analysis @SorianoJoe. Be sure to like us on Facebook here and follow our site on Twitter as well.

Topics: Behind The Numbers, Buffalo Bills, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson

Want more from NFL Spin Zone?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.