The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a rough season. Whether it is losing Maurice Jones-Drew for what seems like the entire season, replacing the struggling Blaine Gabbert with a struggling Chad Henne, or losing Daryl Smith for the season, it has been a bad one down in Jacksonville. But in almost all cases (except at left guard and the third linebacker) the Jaguars have managed to find a serviceable player to fit into the scheme. At running back, however, the Jaguars have struggled to find a consistent replacement.
Rashad Jennings was supposed to be the man after a great 2010 season averaging over five yards per attempt. This season he has been lackluster, to put it mildly. He has 283 yards on 101 carries which comes out to a terrible 2.8 yards per attempt. Despite carrying the ball 25 more times than MJD, Jennings still has 131 yards less than Jones-Drew. Jennings has not lived up to his hype or his potential this season.
Jalen Parmele was the next running back to get a shot at replacing Jones-Drew. Parmele had a disappointing preseason but showed up to play in the regular season. He had one start before being placed on injured reserve. His 40 attempts for 143 yards and a 3.6 yard average was a vast improvement over Jennings. The offense felt more powerful, more fluid, and smoother with Parmele in the backfield. Of course, that all changed when he landed on IR with a leg injury.
Montell Owens is the fourth running back to get a start for the Jaguars. He will be the third running back to start at least two games this season. Owens has been an improvement over both Jennings and Parmele, albeit on a smaller sample size. Owens is traditionally a special teams player, but, when called upon, he has done well back at running back. Owens has 21 attempts for 120 yards with a healthy 5.7 yard per carry average. That average is demonstrative of both experience and skill, but from a player that the team would rather have covering punt returns. Despite having the best average besides MJD on the team, Owens will likely not be an heir apparent for Jones-Drew.
In fact, none of the players who have started at running back for the Jaguars will likely be the heir apparent. One doesn’t qualify as a serviceable backup, the other barely does, and the third is meant for another position.
Jones-Drew is getting older. He isn’t the youngest playmaker around anymore, but he is still a massive talent. We don’t know if injuries will continue to hamper his career or if this is a one time thing. Either way, the Jaguars need to get some talent into that backfield. The players they had their this year have been underwhelming. Against the Dolphins I hope we see another strong day of running from Owens, but he is not going to be that man at running back; he is needed elsewhere.
This season has been rough, and as much as we need a new offensive line, new defensive line pieces, and a better corps of cornerbacks, the running depth back problem needs to be addressed as well.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims