For years the Jacksonville Jaguars were a run-first football team with talent in the backfield. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew were workhorse running backs with home run potential on each and every play. Even when the team bottomed out, you could count on a few good runs from the backs and the offense could flow through them.
On Sunday against the Eagles, however, the Jags’ running game was mediocre at best.
Maurice Jones-Drew left this past offseason and he apparently took the team’s offensive identity with him.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of new running back Toby Gerhart. I like his running style and I think he can be successful. But Sunday’s 2.3 yard average was absolutely pedestrian. It goes beyond Gerhart, however. Denard Robinson did only slightly better with his 2.7 yard per carry average. Jordan Todamn even got a look and he managed a meager 2.0. The Jags looked like they completely lost their mojo.
When you can’t run, you have to pass. Unfortunately for the Jags, Chad Henne remained under center all game, completed 55% of his passes and was throwing to predominantly rookies. He had no picks and his two touchdowns with 266 yards would look great if the Jags had been able to run and hold onto their 17-0 lead, but when the game faltered, Henne couldn’t put the team on his shoulders and muscle it out.
Which is why the running game must pick up in Jacksonville.
Sunday’s loss showed us what we already knew: Chad Henne cannot carry this team. In order for this team to win, the running game must be an active participant. Two yards per rush for a total of 64 yards in a game will not cut it in the NFL.
This isn’t all on the running backs, however. A lot of the blame lies with the offensive line. The unit is patchwork at best and downright awful at worst. There was virtually no push to get the opposition off the line and they weren’t able to power through to the second level of the defense. Holes simply did not exist for the running backs. The ground game broke like waves on a craggy coast, continually broken, continually turned away.
The Jags play the Washington Redskins next week. The ‘Skins allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the league last season, but still finished in the middle of the pack in total rushing yards allowed. The Jaguars need to find some purchase against them next week or risk the same problems they had against the Eagles.
But in the season opener the Jags showed the running game is weak in a number of areas. Some players need to step up.