Maurice Jones-Drew (Getty Images)
The Jaguars offensive identity over the last few seasons has been that of a physical, run-first type of team. That’s further reflected by the fact that Jacksonville has the most rushing yards in the NFL over the last two seasons.
The two biggest stars of the team are running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor. After two games the Jaguars are 28th in the NFL in rushing, and both Jones-Drew and Taylor have been healthy.
What may be more disturbing than the lack of rushing proficiency is the lack of rushing attempts. Jacksonville is currently 25th in the NFL averaging just 22 rushing attempts through the first two games. It’s understandable that a team could temporarily abandon the running game if they’re down by multiple scores, but the Jaguars largest deficit has been just 10 points (opening day), and they were only down by 10 for exactly 2 minutes and 12 seconds.
Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio admits that he would like to see both Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew more involved in the offense.
“The best way to keep those guys and get those guys involved is to move the chains and to have third downs converted into first downs so you get more opportunities,” Del Rio said.
Moving the chains has certainly been an issue for the Jaguars as the team has converted just 7 of 25 third down opportunities for just 28%, including an abysmal 2 for 11 in Sunday’s loss to the Bills.
“When you go two for eleven, it really takes away your ability to use those guys and get them more carries and more touches,” Del Rio said.
Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars dynamic back and most explosive weapon has seemed to be somewhat of a forgotten man this September, as he has just 12 rushing attempts on the season, and only seven receptions. 19 touches for a player of his abilities is certainly a detriment to a team that lacks a multitude of playmaking options. Jones-Drew is rightfully frustrated about his lack of work.
“There is no running game if you don't run it, and we just haven't ran the ball, that's all it is, there is nothing else to it," said Maurice Jones-Drew. "We haven't run the ball, period. We've got to get back to what we are. We're a running team, period. That's all it is. Ask anybody, they'll tell you."
On opening day, the running game was neutralized by a very physical Tennessee Titans defense, as the Jaguars were a bit shell-shocked with their myriad of injuries on the offensive line. With a week to get some cohesion, the line played significantly better against Buffalo.
“I was really proud of the guys that plugged in,” said Jack Del Rio. Uche Nwaneri in his first start, and Milford Brown stepping in, and Tutan Reyes to kind of man the right guard spot, and I thought they gave us a chance. I thought they held their own. That was a major concern going in. They held up, they gave us a chance.”
Another player who was supposed to break out but hasn’t been involved much in the offense has been tight end Marcedes Lewis. Lewis has mostly been used as a blocker and decoy in the passing game, and has just four receptions for 42 yards in the team’s first two games.
“I think it (the tight end position) needs to be part of what we do, and I think we’ve got good guys there,” Del Rio said. I think Marcedes (Lewis) is one of our better players. I think we need to make sure we utilize him. I don’t have anything specifically on that topic. As a football team there are several things we need to do better.”
If the Jaguars are going to right the ship and get back into contention, it will have to be with the strengths of their offense, which is the running and play-action passing game. It would be a good guess that they would try and flex those muscles this Sunday against an undersized Indianapolis Colts defense, who are currently ranked 28th in the league against the run.