T.J. Yeldon’s presence improves Jaguars tremendously


T.J. Yeldon was not a sexy pick in the early part of the second round in the 2015 NFL Draft. Personally, I thought the Jacksonville Jaguars should wait even longer for someone like Jay Ajayi and see what Denard Robinson could do for this team as the full time starter.

Well, I’m happy to say that I was wrong.

Dead wrong.

The difference between a game with T.J. Yeldon (Week 7) and a game without T.J. Yeldon (Week 6) is like light and day for the Jaguars.

In Week 6, the Jaguars could hardly run the ball against a Houston Texans defense that is not particularly impressive. The team amassed just 83 yards on the ground and a significant portion of those came from Blake Bortles (37 yards) on scrambles.

Against the Buffalo Bills and their highly vaunted rushing defense, the Jaguars managed to make running look easy. Yeldon had his second game with over 100 yards and also got into the end zone on a long scamper. In the end, the Jags had 120 rushing yards in the game.

And that’s the key. T.J. Yeldon is the Jaguars rushing attack. He is not just a primary focus of it, he is it. Week 7 saw Toby Gerhart fail to run the ball four times(!) from the one-yard line. The Jags even tried giving defensive lineman Tyson Alualu the ball in a short yardage situation (it failed).

Meanwhile, Yeldon continued to eat up chunks of yards at a time. He finished the day with 5.75 yards per attempt. That’s an improvement on his 4.0 average for the year.

Every other running back on the Jaguars roster is struggling to run the football. There is a clear talent gap between Yeldon and the rest of the bunch. For a group that was considered a strength before heading into the season, it’s clear that there was a need at the position. Here are how all the running backs stack up at this point:

  • T.J. Yeldon: 101 attempts, 406 yards (4.0 yards per attempt), one touchdown
  • Toby Gerhart: 20 attempts, 44 yards (2.2 yards per attempt)
  • Denard Robinson: 13 attempts, 47 yards (3.6 yards per attempt)
  • Bernard Pierce: six attempts, 11 yards (1.8 yards per attempt)
  • Corey Grant: six attempts, two yards (.3 yards per attempt), one incredibly costly fumble

I left off the second-best rusher on the team, Blake Bortles. He has 23 attempts for 146 yards. Most of those yards have come on scrambles.

Without Yeldon, this rushing offense is concerning. It’s fortunate that Yeldon had IV bags during the trip so he could play because this entire game could have been far worse without him.

There’s something off in the running back stable and the Jaguars need to get it solved quickly. Gerhart doesn’t seem to be a fit for the team, Bernard Pierce is proving that his frustrating situation with the Baltimore Ravens was primarily his fault, and Denard Robinson has been missing games and failing to contribute.

On the whole, it just makes me even more glad that T.J. Yeldon is here to bail the Jaguars out.

Next: Post-game prediction recap

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