Jaguars Double-Feature (Getty Images)
In 2007, the Jaguars relied on a devastating running game led by the one-two punch of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Fullback Greg Jones paved the way for the duo as Jacksonville accumulated 3,328 yards on the ground, which was the second most in the NFL. Let's take a look at the depth at running back and fullback.
As Jacksonville prepares for training camp and OTAs, Jones-Drew and Taylor will be ready to continue their dominance as the competition for back up spots in the backfield is sure to draw some attention.
At fullback, Greg Jones received a contract extension, making him the highest paid fullback in NFL history. At 6’1”, 254 lbs, Jones combines good burst and strength to pave the way for his running backs. This will be his second season back after suffering a knee injury in 2006 and Jones should be at full strength.
Behind Jones is three-year veteran, Montell Owens, who is a little undersized at 5’11”, 219 lbs. Despite his stature, Owens has made an impression on coaches and teammates due to his constant effort. “I believe that any great athlete is never satisfied,” said the special teams standout. “They always want to be better then what they are. In junior high, they want to play college ball, in high school, they want to play in college, in college, they want to go pro. That's pretty much been my philosophy all the way through.”
Owens, who was re-signed this offseason, is more of a special teams stud than anything. Owens will likely be safe in terms of a roster spot because of his versatility, but pushing him for time will be fellow Maine alumni, Anthony Cotrone. Cotrone brings a big body into camp, as he is listed at 6’2”, 260 lbs. He is a long shot to make the roster, but Cotrone should provide a physical presence and might surprise some people.
Then there is the bread and butter of Jacksonville’s offense; the running backs. Taylor made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career last season, and while he should be equally effective in 2008, there is a chance that Taylor will be in a reduced role this year. At 32, Taylor’s best years are likely behind him and while he stays in great shape, Jones-Drew will be prepared for more repetitions. Taylor is a cut-back runner who does most of his work through the tackles, while Jones-Drew is a straight line runner who can push a pile with the best of them, despite being just 5’7”.
Most know what to expect from Taylor and Jones-Drew so the real excitement in camp will be for the battle of the third running back, which will come down to D.D. Terry and rookie Chauncey Washington. For the past several seasons, LaBrandon Toefield excelled at the role of third string back, but was not re-signed this offseason. Terry, the favorite to win Toefield’s spot, is a first-year player from Sam Houston State who spent 2007 on the Jaguars practice squad. Terry has the potential to be a good running back, as he has run 4.3 second 40-yard dashes and is certainly capable of scoring any time he touches the ball, but he needs to improve his overall running skills to become a starter in the NFL. If Terry can get a little bigger and can improve his natural instincts this summer, he could stick.
Seventh-round draft pick, Chauncey Washington could push Terry and might be a very pleasant surprise. Washington had academic problems at USC which caused his stock to fall drastically, but he fortunately doesn’t have to deal with the classroom in the NFL. Washington is a big back (5’11”, 218 lbs.) with legit 4.4 speed and excellent quickness to boot. Fans and coaches alike will keep a close eye on Washington, who has a lot of potential to make an impact in the league. If he keeps his nose clean and picks up the subtle nuances of being a running back, such as blocking, he could be a keeper.
Overall, Jacksonville’s running backs won’t be the main focus for most during OTAs and training camp this summer, as the team has established starters across the board. However, the Jaguars do need to have depth behind the Pro Bowl caliber Jones, Taylor and Jones-Drew if any of them get hurt, and that is where the entertainment will lie in watching the backups battle it out for roster spots.