David Nelson is normally one of the more willing and insightful talkers on the Bills, a guy you can always count on for a succinct comment.
But after Sunday's loss at the Jets, Nelson couldn't bring himself to speak. He sat at his locker, sniffling and disconsolate, rubbing his seriously injured right knee. Nelson waved off reporters. It was clear that the Bills' wide receiver had been crying. He's done for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Running back Fred Jackson was nowhere to be found. Jackson had been seen crying in dismay near the visiting bench after spraining his right knee on a hit from Jets safety LaRon Landry in the second quarter in the Bills' 48-28 season-opening loss. Jackson, who missed the second half of last season with a broken leg, is expected to miss at least a few weeks.
That's the state of the Bills' offense, one week into a season of high promise. It's a full-blown crisis, a crying shame.
Their featured running back is out of action. Their second-best receiver is out for the season. Donald Jones is nominally the No. 2 wideout, but Nelson, who caught 61 passes for 658 yards and five touchdowns last season, was Ryan Fitzpatrick's second-favorite target.
This is grim news, indeed.
Fitzpatrick was terrible in the opener, throwing three interceptions. His receiving corps was thin to begin with, but now the quarterback has to operate without his favorite slot receiver.
What happens now? Do they move Jones into the slot and make rookie T.J. Graham the outside receiver? Do they make Brad Smith more than an expensive Wildcat toy?
Ruvell Martin, anyone? Marcus Easley? How about a proven guy, like Jabar Gaffney?
It's easy to second-guess. It's right there in my job description. But an early crisis at wideout raises old questions about management's failure to upgrade the position. They reached for an easy solution, trading up to draft Graham in the third round of last year's draft.
Graham, who was expected to provide a downfield threat this season, wasn't even active against the Jets on Sunday.
I know it can take receivers time to develop. But considering the lack of depth at wideout, you'd think Graham could at least get on the field. Stephen Hill, the Jets' rookie wideout, had two touchdowns Sunday. Jeremy Kerley, a fifth-round draft choice in 2011, also scored twice for the Jets. Kerley was a big factor in the Jets' win over the Bills here as a rookie last season.
The Bills desperately need someone who can challenge opponents deep, even if Fitzpatrick can't deliver the ball on a consistent basis. Jones simply isn't the answer. He got very little separation on Sunday.
At times, it looked as if the Jet defenders were the intended receivers.
Opposing defensive coaches have the book on how to defend the Bills. It's been around for almost a year now. Bill Belichick probably has it on Kindle. Cheat up on the short stuff and dare Fitz to beat you deep. It's a pretty effective strategy against an erratic quarterback with an athletically limited receiving corps.
Suddenly, backup running back C.J. Spiller is the beacon of hope for the offense. I still think it was a dumb move to take Spiller with the ninth overall pick in 2010. That doesn't mean the guy isn't a dynamic talent.
He's still not as good as Jackson as a traditional featured back, running inside and picking up blitzers. But he's the most explosive weapon the Bills have on their roster.
Spiller has quietly waited his turn and learned his craft. He was sensational against the Jets, running for a career-high 169 yards on 14 carries. He wouldn't be my first choice on third-and-1, but he has the ability to break a long run at any time. On a team that rarely gets a big play out of its wide receivers, that's an especially valuable commodity.
So by necessity, the time has come for the Bills to give Spiller a larger workload. Instead of searching for spots to utilize his talents, they'll be relying on him to be the focus of the offense - at least until Jackson is healthy again.
Nowadays, this is the only reason you take a running back in the top 10 of the draft, because you think he's a budding superstar, someone dynamic enough to carry an offense and touch the ball 25-30 times a game. We'll find out if Spiller is ready for that sort of featured role, where opposing defenses design their entire game plans around shutting him down.
It's a lot to ask for Spiller to take on that kind of burden while the passing game is undergoing a reconstruction of its own. But this is the opportunity he waited for, a chance to prove his worthiness as an elite back and justify management's decision to draft him in the first place.
If Spiller delivers, the Bills will have a full-blown running back controversy when Jackson comes back.
So be it. It would mean the offense actually found itself after Sunday's discouraging beginning.
At this point, too much talent at any offensive position would be a welcome problem for the brain trust at One Bills Drive.