Jaguars: Running Backs

(Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

In this series we will look at each position on the Jaguars, determine the talent and needs, and suggest changes. The next position group we are going to analyze are the Jaguars running backs.

The Jacksonville rushing attack finished the regular season ranked second in the league, averaging nearly 150 yards per game. The Jaguars have explosive backs in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, who can take it to the house on any single play, and they also have depth at the position with Greg Jones and LaBrandon Toefield, who will both be free agents.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Fred Taylor, Greg Jones. Backups -- Maurice Jones-Drew, LaBrandon Toefield, Montell Owens, D.D. Terry.

Fred Taylor had a Pro Bowl caliber season at the tender age of 31, as he gained over 1200 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Taylor had four rushes of better than 50 yards on the season and displayed the speed and power that has made him one of the best backs in the NFL. Sharing carries with Maurice Jones-Drew has seemed to keep Taylor more fresh, and has been healthier and more explosive as a result.

    Contract status: Taylor is under contract through 2010, and the Jaguars will likely make decisions on him year by year as he's due $5M, $6M, then $7M over the next three years (salary and roster bonuses).

Greg Jones finished as the first alternate to the AFC Pro Bowl team as a fullback. Jones has a powerful 6'1", 254 lb. frame, and is now recognized as one of the best fullbacks in the game as he can not only block effectively, but he has running skills and soft hands. Jones has torn his ACL twice, and those injuries have kept him from being a featured back in this league.

    Contract status: Jones' contract is voidable and will become a free agent this spring. Jones will be a hot commodity on the free agent market, as he may become the highest paid fullback in NFL history, eclipsing the Falcons' Ovie Mughelli who inked a 6 year, $18 million deal a year ago.

    Like any other player, the Jaguars must put a dollar value on Jones' services and let the market determine where he will go. Although Jones has been a very nice player for the team, fullback is not a position in which they should overpay.

Maurice Jones-Drew is the most recognizable Jaguar, and probably the most explosive player on the team. Jones-Drew followed up his 16 touchdown rookie performance with nine more in 2007 (11 TD's if you count the playoffs). Jones-Drew is the ultimate do it all back, as he can run for short yardage, break big gains, run inside the tackles or bounce it outside. Jones-Drew catches the ball well out of the backfield, and is great in pass protection. The duo of Jones-Drew and Taylor are probably the best in football.

    Contract status: Jones-Drew is under contract through the 2009 season (his rookie deal).

LaBrandon Toefield is the "other guy" in the Jaguars group of running backs. Toefield was active in just two games in 2007 and gained 27 yards on 13 carries. Toefield is a power runner who can probably fit in better on a team with less talent at running back.

    Contract status: Toefield is an unrestricted free agent. Toefield was a UFA last season and the Jaguars allowed him to test the market before coming back and signing a one-year deal.

    It is very unlikely that Toefield will be wearing a Jaguars uniform in 2008.

Montell Owens is listed as a fullback, but he earns his NFL paychecks as a special teams star. Owens was a former undrafted free agent rookie that has worked his way onto the Jaguars roster by his sheer will and superlative special teams play.

    Contract status: Owens is an exclusive rights free agent which means that he has no more than two accrued seasons in the NFL and may only sign with his prior team, provided, of course, that the team extends a minimum qualifying offer to the player. Owens isn't going anywhere.

D.D. Terry was an undrafted free agent rookie that made the Jaguars practice squad in 2007. Terry showed some significant running skills, and will likely be a contender for a roster spot in 2008.

    Contract status: Terry was signed by the Jaguars last week to a one-year deal.

Are changes necessary? Possibly. The Jaguars must assign Greg Jones a value, and either sign him to a new deal or sign a fullback in free agency. There's very little chance Toefield will be retained, and D.D. Terry would likely be a great fit at the third running back position if they choose to go that route.

Other options that could be available: Musa Smith, Brad Hoover, Jamal Lewis, Cecil Sapp, T.J. Duckett, Ron Dayne, Kris Wilson, Jesse Chatman, Melwelde Moore, Tony Richardson, Aaron Stecker, Justin Fargas, Thomas Tapeh, Dan Kreider, Michael Turner, Michael Bennett, and Chris Brown.

Who makes sense: If the Jaguars can't come to terms with Greg Jones, some of the pure fullbacks that could be available are Brad Hoover, Kris Wilson, Tony Richardson, Thomas Tapeh, and Dan Kreider. Jamal Lewis, Justin Fargas, and Michael Turner are all talented running backs that will either likely cost too much for the Jaguars, or will demand too many carries if they need a replacement for Toefield. Some of the running backs that could fit in as a third back are Musa Smith, Cecil Sapp, T.J. Duckett, Aaron Stecker, or Chris Brown.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustrated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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