Maurice Jones-Drew Close to Breaking Out, Jaguars Say
Jones-Drew certainly hopes so.
Jones-Drew, the Jaguars' Pro Bowl running back and the key to the team's run-oriented offensive, has said this week he was upset with his performance in a 38-13 loss to San Diego, adding, "a lot of guys are as well."
He has rushed for 129 yards this season on 35 carries and ranks 10th in the AFC in rushing. Jones' longest run this season: 18 yards.
The numbers aren't bad, but they're not what Jones wants -- nor what is expected for a back who rushed for 1,391 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
"Teams have been doing a lot of good things against us by stacking the box," Jones-Drew said this week as the Jaguars (1-1) prepared to play the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) in Jacksonville Sunday. "We've been close a couple of times, but we're just going to keep working at it. It should pop sooner or later, hopefully sooner for my sanity."
Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said the Chargers last week stacked the defense to stop Jones-Drew, noting that during one stretch of 11 consecutive plays, the Chargers blitzed to an eight-man front every play.
"That's why we thought we'd have some great opportunities in the pass game; we just didn't get to them, Koetter told Jaguars.com writer Vic Ketchman.
Koetter said that makes the play of quarterback David Garrard key. Last week, Garrard threw four interceptions, one of which was an underthrow on a play that perhaps should have been a first-quarter touchdown pass to Tiquan Underwood.
But Koetter also said even with the drawn-in defense in the first half, Jones-Drew was close to breaking a long run several times.
"Every team targets Maurice. I thought Maurice had three runs in the first half that he was just a tick from breaking out of there," Koetter said.
Said guard Uche Nwaneri, "We need to create lanes. I think running the ball is going to be good. We need to have Maurice as a big contributor. As a line, there's nothing we like more than setting that physical tempo. After we do that, over the top."
Koetter also added that he supported the move by Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio to pull Garrard from the San Diego game in the fourth quarter.
"There's a time to be mad and a time to coddle," Koetter said. "David's a nine-year vet. I thought Jack made the right decision. It was time for David to sit down. It wasn't Dave's day. I have no doubt Dave will play well this week."
Also, the Jaguars have ruled out defensive tackle Landon Cohen (knee) and linebacker Justin Durant (ankle), while running back/returner Deji Kareem (thumb) and safety Anthony Smith (foot) are questionable. Jones-Drew (ankle), Nwaneri (foot) and guard Justin Smiley (ankle) are probably and expected to play.