Jacksonville Jaguars: 2015 focus on running game paid off


The Jacksonville Jaguars made a commitment to the running game in the 2015 season and it actually paid off.

When defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. went down with injury and was unable to compete in a single contest in 2015, all eyes turned to second round running back T.J. Yeldon as the next highest rookie for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That added a large amount of pressure to young back out of Alabama, but it wasn’t enough to derail the reviving of the running game in year three under head coach Gus Bradley.

Yeldon finished the season 740 yards on 182 attempts (4.1 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns in just 12 games. His 61.7 yards per game aren’t eye popping by any means, but that pace would have put him just a few yards shy of a 1000 yard season if he had been available for all 16 games.

Compared to past years when the Jags struggled to field a running back after the departure of Maurice Jones-Drew, Yeldon was practically a godsend.

But it all started before Yeldon arrived in Jacksonville.

Yeldon was just a piece of the puzzle for the Jaguars as they worked to build a better ground attack. They were committed to making things better to alleviate pressure on quarterback Blake Bortles. And it worked.

The passing attack soared with a legitimate threat on the ground. With five 300 yard games on the season and a host of franchise passing records broken, it’s important to look past the passer and his receivers. Having a legitimate threat on the ground helped open things up in the passing game and the Jags haven’t had that threat in years.

Almost as important, the Jacksonville Jaguars were able to rely on the ground game as a truly productive tool again. With over 100 yards on the ground in five games, the Jags achieved a much greater balance than in years past. In only one of those five 100 yard games did the passing game put up over 300 yards. Three of those games were wins and of the two losses, one was in overtime.

A lot of credit needs to be given to head coach Gus Bradley for bringing in the right people to do the job and revamp the rushing attack for the Jags. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson also deserves plenty of praise and turned in one of his best offenses in his career in 2015.

The Jags set a goal for themselves and absolutely accomplished it in 2015. That’s a big step forward for a team that seemed to be treading water prior to the 2015 season.

More jaguars: Allen Robinson and the passing attack were OK too

Credit where credit is due. The Jags weren’t kidding around when they set out to make the rushing attack an important part of the offense. And it looks like it can only get better from here. There’s room to grow (2015 wasn’t perfect after all) and the pieces are in place to get the running game to be even better.