Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings, and The Running Game
By David Johns
Much has been made about the Jaguars pass offense last year. The numbers have been ran over and over like some cruel reminder of an embarrassing night out that we’d rather not remember. It looks as if the organization has done everything in their power to improve our lack of an aerial attack by bringing in Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans via free agency and by drafting the best wide receiver in this year’s draft class, Justin Blackmon. Mularkey and the new coaching staff seem to be rebuilding Gabbert’s fundamentals in an attempt to turn him into a more effective passer. Eugene Monroe should only get better, and Britton is coming back 110% “awesome” as Mr. Sims has already noted.
Everything is in place to make sure that the Jaguars passing attack is actually able to threaten defenses. Something, however, is getting lost in all of this. For some reason everyone thinks that the running game is just going to simply return to form in 2012 without missing a beat. Nothing in today’s NFL is a given.
An emphasis put on every NFL team during the offseason is shoring up areas of weakness, but what about making something that was already strong, stronger?
Running the ball is the identity of the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m a bit concerned that we’re going to lose focus on one of the only areas of our game that has kept this football team competitive. Yes, we got blown out a handful of times last season, but who hasn’t? Maurice Jones-Drew has been an ace in the hole for a few years now. I’m all for getting better in the passing game, especially after last season. I just believe it would be wise to pay the man. He’s earned it, and it’s not like he’s going to quit on the team like Chris Johnson did with the Titans.
I’ve been taking a look at teams who run the ball, and I really appreciate what the 49ers did in free agency and the draft. They already had Frank Gore and they drafted Kendall Hunter in 2011. This offseason they signed Brandon Jacobs and drafted LaMichael James. They have somewhat of a crowded backfield, but the best will rise through the competition.
With defenses getting faster and stronger, running backs take quite the beating nowadays. Some people will tell you that good running backs grow on trees and those people may have a good point when they are referring to teams like the Saints and Patriots. But what happens to teams that are centered around the running game? Can you imagine what would happen to the Ravens if Ray Rice hit IR?
If you’re a team that believes in pounding the rock, it is wise to have a handful of capable running backs on the roster. So what does Jacksonville have?
Does anyone remember the end of the 2010 season? Rashad Jennings stepped in and had two 100 yard games. I don’t think Jones-Drew will hold out, but what if he does? Can Jennings carry the load? I think if he’s healthy he can get the job done, but he’ll be no MJD. Who is right?
Everything aside, I don’t think Jones-Drew will hold out. With that being said, I think it’s still just as important for Jennings to be healthy and ready for action. It would be very beneficial to our offense to have two talented running backs ready for duty. I wouldn’t even be opposed to carrying three or maybe even four. Since this offense is still based around the run, we need to have as much depth at the position as possible. I like Montell Owens because he can do several things on special teams and has proven serviceable in the past, and I think Jalen Parmele can offer his return talents as well.
Is there another running back already on the roster that can do more than just provide depth and special teams play though? Could this running back run with the first team offense? We have some young guns who have a slim to none chance of making the game day roster, but then again we really don’t know very much about any of them.
Richard Murphy seems to be an intriguing candidate. I mentioned him in a previous post. He was put on IR last year during preseason, but we might want to take a look at him. He played at a big time SEC program (LSU) where he was a four year letterman at running back and special teams. He wore the #18 which best represents what it means to be a Tiger. He appeared in 40 games with two starts. What if he offers a bit more than Owens does at the actual running back position? What if we have 3 capable backs who can run with the offense instead of just being depth/special teams guys?
It would be wise to take a look at all of the backs already on the roster and not lose focus of what this team has done well for several years now-run the football.
-David R. Johns