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Inside the Numbers: C.J. Spiller’s Development Under Curtis Modkins Lends Hope to Mikel Leshoure

January 16th, 2013 at 2:06 PM
By Max DeMara

In 2010, Curtis Modkins took over the reigns as the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Soon after that, the Bills drafted C.J. Spiller, a running back out of Clemson University, and quickly developed one of the most powerful rushing attacks in the NFL.

Along with Fred Jackson, who was already a quality member of the Bills' backfield in 2009, Spiller was able to develop into a solid talent under Modkins' watch in short time, becoming a statistical beast. In his rookie year of 2010, Spiller contributed 283 yards from scrimmage, 157 yards receiving and one touchdown through the air. In 2011, Spiller put fort 561 yards with four touchdowns, and 269 from the air with two scores. 2012 brought even better numbers, with 1,244 yards on the ground with six scores and 459 receiving yards with two. That's solid improvement across the board.

Additionally, Jackson was also able to remain consistent at the same time despite sustaining a few injuries. He came close to breaking the 1,000 yard threshold in 2010 and 2011, finishing with 927 and 934 yards. Give him credit for sharing the touches with Spiller and continuing to make a big impact on the game.

Consider then what Mikel Leshoure, a 798 yard rusher in 2012, could develop into, especially if he gets a running mate. Might Modkins have similar power plans for Detroit's ground game? Remember, Buffalo never had a quarterback with the arm of Matthew Stafford, nor did they have a receiver like Calvin Johnson to fall back on. Spiller and Jackson, outside Stevie Johnson, were forced to develop largely on their own. With powerful offensive elements already in place and the title of running game coordinator, Modkins should be free to be creative with the rushing attack, and might give it the best possible makeover.

In 2010-2012, the Bills badly out rushed the Lions on the ground. Detroit struggled to eclipse 1,500 yards rushing as a team over that same period, while the Bills nearly went over 2,000 yards as a team in 2011, (1,921) and did in 2012 (2,217). The numbers don't lie. Recently, the Lions have completely stunk at establishing a consistent rushing attack, while the team Modkins was coaching did a fantastic job.

Thus, Detroit should give Modkins some significant influence towards finding his version of Spiller in April, be it through free agency or the draft. It's clear Leshoure has much untapped potential and Joique Bell can be a solid contributor. In 2012, it was clear there were two significant missing elements: quality coaching, and a game breaking talent like Spiller's.

Perhaps now, as Spiller's always improving numbers help show, Modkins can help aid in the young Lions' return to some ground game dominance.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on his personal Twitter account @SportsGuyTheMax or on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

Tags: C.J. Spiller, Curtis Modkins, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Fred Jackson, Mikel Leshoure, NFL

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