Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, Offensive Line Must Play Better


The running game for the Jacksonville Jaguars has been an absolute mess to start the season. With just 279 total rushing yards through four games, the Jaguars are off to another slow start on the ground. Last season they managed just 196 yards on the ground through four games. So, I guess you can say there has been improvement. Free agent addition Toby Gerhart was supposed to be able to shoulder the load, however, and be the workhorse back the Jaguars desperately needed after parting ways with Maurice Jones-Drew. Denard Robinson was supposed to progress, turn the corner in year two, and become the perfect change of flash of lightning to Gerhart’s pounding thunder.

Unfortunately that hasn’t happened.

Instead we have been treated to tantalizing but inconsistent flashes from Denard Robinson and a major dud from Toby Gerhart.

Combined the two backs have just 180 yards on 64 carries which is good for a meager 2.8 yards per carry average.

That’s practically nothing for a ground attack in the NFL.

Part of the blame rests in the offensive line. The unit has been unable to play together well in large part because it is a patchwork operation with limited time to gel. Luke Bowanko looks like he’s shoring up the center position and the Jaguars will be getting right tackle Austin Posztur back against the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. If the unit can hold together than there’s a chance that the run blocking can greatly improve. More than any other positions in football, those five guys have to operate as a unit to be successful and have a positive impact for the team. It’s tough for a running game to get started when the defense is in the backfield as the ball is being handed off.

If the offensive line doesn’t gel then the Jaguars will continue to have the depressing ground attack they have had through the first four games.

Yet the blame must also be placed on Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson. The two primary backs for the Jaguars have struggled to succeed. Perhaps it was unfair to expect much from a perennial backup to Adrian Peterson and a converted quarterback in just his second year. Yet, I see both players with the potential to become the hard-nosed, north-south power back and the elusive, shifty runner we expected, respectively.

Sometimes Gerhart has the knack that made the Jaguars pursue him in free agency. He looks like the workhorse that the team needs. But then other times he withers and is easily stopped by the opposition.

Sometimes Robinson looks like he has the vision and skill to get around the edge and put up big plays. At other times he seems immature and unsure of when to turn the ball up field.

Of the two, Robinson is flashing more and he is rightly getting more touches as a result.

Yet the play has still not been good enough. The Jaguars posted an horrendous 85 rushing yards against the San Diego Chargers last week. While still the second best performance of the year (which is saying a lot) the running game simply is not enough of the offense. It needs to become a weapon and tool by which the Jaguars can score and control the clock. At this point it is nothing more than a premature drive killer, forcing quarterback Blake Bortles into tough throwing situations.

It took until week 15 for the 2013 Jaguars to post a decent (and season high) 159 yards on the ground. Last year ended with a 4-12 record. The Jaguars can ill afford another horrendous outing like that in 2014 (though the running game was and is not the sole problem). They need Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, and the offensive line to play better.