Is Maurice Jones-Drew on his way to a reduced role in Jacksonville? Child, please. Mojo is always going to be a major cog in the Jaguars’ offensive attack when he’s healthy. In fact, Jones-Drew still managed to bear more than his share of the load in 2010, averaging 23.8 touches and 117.2 yds from scrimmage in the 14 games he played in last year – all in spite of a torn meniscus that was suffered (silently) sometime before the regular season started. Many have speculated that the Jaguars would ease the load on him in 2011 (…and in 2010…and in 2009…), so does that mean we’ll be seeing more of Rashad Jennings and Deji Karim? Will the Jaguars take the load off their running game with a short-range aerial attack? Will David Garrard, Brock Bolen, and Terrance Knighton run Dirk Koetter’s take on the Wing-T offense? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!
Arlington socialite and Krystal enthusiast, John Oehser (also, senior editor for Jaguars.com) has hinted in recent weeks that the Jaguars will be less contingent on the man known as the Human Pinball in 2011. From his “Back in Business” article, detailing players injured in 2010 that need to step it back up this year, Oehser says the following:
Ideally, the Jaguars won’t be as dependent on Jones-Drew this season. It’s likely Rashad Jennings will get more carries during the course of the season, with the idea to take some of the load off Jones-Drew, who will be in his sixth year and who has carried a big load in recent season.
Are there whispers around Everbank suggesting that Maurice is on the decline? Does the Jaguars’ senior editor know something we don’t? To me, such speculation is nothing new – people have always questioned if Mojo’s diminutive frame could handle the wear-and-tear that comes with being a workhorse running back. When Fred Taylor was released during the post-2008 reboot, the critics immediately said Jones-Drew couldn’t do it on his own. He responded with a 16 game, 312 carry, 1,391 yard, 15 TD season in 2009 (with 53 receptions, 374 yards, and another TD, to boot). He managed 14 games last year on a busted-up knee before it finally gave out, causing him to miss the final two games. For a running back that plays with his physicality, missing two games in the last two seasons (as the primary ballcarrier) and only missing three games total in his first five years in the NFL is downright durable with how careful teams are these days with their players. The lockout has afforded Mojo plenty of rest since he went on IR in December of last year, so expect him to be back to full speed for opening day.
There are indications, however, that the Jaguars’ are attempting to diversify their offense. The wideout corps is stocked with guys who, despite being unproven, are seen as high-potential players that the organization believes can develop into serious weapons. We moved into the top 10 of this year’s draft to select a quarterback that many pundits saw as the #1 overall player in this year’s crop of college talent. Dirk Koetter has consistently praised our tight ends and openly gushes about how much he’d like to get creative with more 2-TE sets. We all know that you have to pass in the modern NFL to win and Gene Smith has meticulously been building the foundation of a potent aerial attack, starting with his back-to-back picks of Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton in the 2009 Draft, the two players most responsible for protecting Blaine Gabbert, as he (hopefully) develops into Jacksonville’s franchise quarterback.
But Gene has far from abandoned the running game. Rashad Jennings is considered by many to be a steal from the 2009 draft; he has flashed starting-back potential and had he finished his college career at Pitt (rather than transferring to D-III Liberty), he likely would have been picked in the 2nd or 3rd round. The selection of the powerful and ginormous Will Rackley in the 3rd round of this year’s draft indicates to me that the Jaguars don’t plan on getting far away from their power-running identity.
The Jaguars may pass a little more this year. They may give Jennings or Karim a few extra carries per game to get Mojo some rest between plays. Make no mistake though, the name of the game in Gene Smith’s rebuild has been balance – on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars may be trending towards a more sophisticated passing game, but they will not be abandoning the run by any means and as long as the guy in the #32 jersey has those infamous tree-trunk legs churning beneath him, he’ll be the center of this offense.
– Andrew Hofheimer