Maurice Jones-Drew’s 177 yards on the ground last week was second only to Jamaal Charles (who put up a ridiculous 233). Jones-Drew kept the Jaguars in the game and did everything within his power for his team to win – though now that I think of it I suppose he was also capable of an 80-yard catch and run like Shorts, but no matter. Through three games he is currently second, again behind Charles, in ground yards with 314 (Charles has 323). With an average of over 100 yards per game, can Jones-Drew continue to take a beating and carry this team? We’ll find out this week against the Bengals.
MJD is currently averaging 5.4 yards per carry, his highest since his rookie season (5.7) following his second highest of his career in 2011 (4.7). He is running strong through the tackles and has shown that he can still break free for big gains. His 59 yard run last week was his longest since 2009 and showed that while he takes hits week in and week out he is able to rebound and his legs are still relatively fresh. Against the Colts the majority of his rushes were up the middle (19) for a total of 142 yards (7.5 yards per attempt). If he can continue such success then he should have another good go of it against the Bengals.
The Bengals defense is currently ranked 31st against the rush, allowing 465 yards (155 yards per game) this season. The Ravens, Browns, and Redskins were all able to push around the Bengals offense on the ground. Ray Rice is the best back out of those they have played thus far and he is comparable to MJD in terms of size and skill set. Rice averaged 6.8 yards per attempt that game on ten attempts. The Ravens debuted their new no-huddle offense that game and rice hardly had to run the ball because Joe Flacco carried the team. Jones-Drew won’t have that luxury, but the Bengals have yet to prove that they can stop a running back – even against two rookie quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden (Browns) and Robert Griffin (Redskins). Rice found some good success following the left guard, and almost averaged seven yards per attempt when running behind the LG.
With the possible return of left guard Eben Britton and right tackle Cameron Bradfield, MJD should have plenty of holes to run through – especially up the middle. Keep in mind that he put up 177 against the Colts with backup center Mike Brewster playing guard last week. The Bengals won’t be the Colts, but it appears they may not be able to stop the run anyway.
Will Jones-Drew throw up another 150+ yards? Maybe. If there was ever a defense struggling to stop the run, it’s the Bengals. Will Jones-Drew’s body be ready after his dominance in the Colts game? I hope so. We have to keep in mind that he is only three weeks in after his holdout and is still readjusting to NFL physicality. On the whole though, I expect Jones-Drew could do it again. It will all be reliant on OC Bob Bratkowski’s play calling (he needs more touches than he did in the Texans game), but it looks like Jones-Drew could continue his dominance that he began last week.
We’ll see on Sunday.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims