Running Back Controversy

Maurice Jones-Drew (Sam Greenwood/Gettty)

There's no such thing as a running back controversy, which is a good thing for fans in Jacksonville, who are all too familiar with the entire concept of a quarterback controversy, as the Jaguars have finally settled on a true number one starter in David Garrard after suffering for nearly five years as former first-round pick Byron Leftwich couldn't stay healthy and take a stranglehold on the job.

The Jaguars situation in the backfield is a little different, as they have two more than capable backs in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Fred Taylor is coming off his first Pro Bowl selection as he gained better than 1200 yards in 2007, which included four runs of better than 50 yards. With that type of production, Taylor would get the bulk of the carries on most teams, but Father Time is gaining on Taylor, who turned 32 years old in January.

The Jaguars backup running back, Maurice Jones-Drew is a speedy, powerful north-south runner who is a big play back who has experienced success ever since early in his rookie season of 2006. Despite starting just one game in his NFL career, the Jaguars little big man has scored 26 regular season touchdowns, and added two more in Jacksonville's playoff victory over Pittsburgh. Jones-Drew is certainly talented enough to start for nearly every team in the NFL as well.

The NFL is becoming more of a two-back type of league, with the amount of beating that running backs around the league take. Taylor and Jones-Drew seem to be a perfect compliment to each other, as both have home-run type of running ability. Still, as Taylor ages there seems to be a growing sentiment to get Jones-Drew more involved in the Jaguars offense. Normally a decrease in carries would get a star running back such as Fred Taylor perturbed, but Jack Del Rio points out the unselfishness of Taylor, and the rest of his Jaguars team—

"I think the one thing that anyone who watched our team last year recognizes, is that we were very unselfish, it was a great locker room, the guys were all buying into things and doing it the right way, it was special. Fred Taylor even said it was the closest locker room. You have to fight to get that every year, and to me, that starts right now."

Fred Taylor reinforced that team-first philosophy when he talked about sharing the load with his backup Maurice Jones-Drew—

"It works. He's a blessing in disguise. The pounding? I don't have to deal with the wear and tear. With Mo, I have all the faith in the world the offense won't miss a beat and he'll get the job done."

Neither Jack Del Rio nor Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has tipped their hands on how the breakdown of carries will go this season. "I would really not want to try and predict how it will play out," said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. "We have some great talent back there, I would include Greg Jones and Chauncey (Washington) and D.D. (Terry) in that mix of talented guys. I think the way it's worked out has been good for Fred's career. I know Maurice (Jones-Drew) is hungry for more, and to strike that balance where you're competitive and supportive of each other, and it's healthy for the team, it's not always easy to strike that balance. I credit Kennedy Pola and those two young men for having the approach they've had the last two years, and we'll look to duplicate that type of approach. In terms of exact number (of carries), I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about that."

The two Jaguars running backs, Taylor and Jones-Drew, combined for better than 82% of the team's 2391 rushing yards, which was the second-highest total in the NFL in 2007. With all of the fantastic rushing skills that each player possesses, the Jaguars should be fine giving the ball to either running back.

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