How To Win Without MJD in 2012
By Luke Sims
Assuming Maurice Jones-Drew continues to hold out through the first part of the season or even the whole season, how will the Jags win in 2012? Go with me here. While Josh Scobee has said he won’t be missing any playing time, our favorite workhorse has yet to make a similar proclamation. He could seriously harm himself and the team by holding out. But as Daniel Lago noted on Friday, a team is much more than one star player.
The new offense that is coming for the Jacksonville Jaguars will be more balanced than the team has seen in the past. In part this will be due to the talent of Blaine Gabbert and the development of that talent. The Jaguars may have never seen a talent like Gabbert under center since their inception into the league in 1995. While he is incredibly raw and should not have started in 2011, his development will be much farther along than it was when he was forced into starting duties after the short-lived Luke McCown era. His (hopefully more refined) skills should alleviate some pressure that has built up on the Jaguar running game over the past decade.
A lot of blogs have focused on the play and skill of Rashad Jennings as a replacement for MJD in 2012. While we here at B&T have done our fair share of that as well, it is time to focus on the overall winning scheme more than just whether or not Rashad can do what Maurice does every day.
The offensive game plan of a team shifts when the primary catalyst of an offense is absent. No longer does the game plan run through that player, channeled to a rhythm that opens the way for greater success by the other players. While I may be in the minority and think that the drop-off in skill between MJD and Jennings will have a smaller effect in the run game than speculated, the change in game plan will be great.
A focus on running the ball 25-30 times in a game won’t jump to a Mike Martz level 50+ passes per game overnight, but it will certainly lean toward a more robust dose of pitch and catch. I’m willing to bet that Mike Mularkey likes his offenses balanced not because of roster deficiencies or strengths but because of scheming mismatch opportunities. Without MJD though, a lot of the balance will undoubtedly shift. This may play well for Mularkey and Bob Bratkowski as they plan the offense.
The team will have to throw more. Maybe not a lot more, but a good bit if they want to win. To compensate for the increased emphasis on passing, the team will have to play a few more short and intermediate routes in the air game. Passing can be immensely effective when compensating for the ground game – you need look no further than the Packers who have been doing it since Ahman Green left.
Throwing the ball will open up running the ball more than running the ball has opened the passing game in the past. While the play action pass may not work well for a lot of teams, it can be helpful when you open up the pass a bit more than usual.
An increase in attempts should help yield beneficial results for the Jaguars and lead to a win. Don’t count Rashad Jennings out if MJD isn’t back in time for the season, but you may want to place a bit more faith in the strong right arm of Blaine Gabbert.
– Luke N. Sims
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