32 Questions in 32 Days: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew

Aug 24, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) finds a hole and gets past Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks (95) for a first down during the first quarter of their game at EverBank Field. The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-24. Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

As we get into the NFL season, XN Sports will be bringing you 32 questions in 32 days. Each day, we’ll feature one of the most important questions for a different NFL team. 

Today’s feature team and question?

Jacksonville Jaguars: Can Maurice Jones-Drew bounce back?

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been one of the NFL’s worst teams over the past few years. The team hasn’t finished over .500 since 2007 and over the last two seasons, the Jags have won a grand total of seven games combined.

One of the constants for the team, however, has been running back Maurice Jones-Drew. MJD, as he’s known to fantasy football owners, has remained an incredible back despite all of Jacksonville’s losing seasons. Jones-Drew has averaged more than 1,000 yards per season over his seven-year career and in 2011, he had a career-best 1,606 yards. From 2009 – 2011, the running back had just over 4,300 yards on the ground and looked like he would be due for another big season in 2012.

After five games, though, Jones-Drew suffered the first big injury of his career. In his sixth game last season, MJD suffered a foot fracture and missed the rest of the season. Jacksonville wasn’t expected to do much anyway and without their star player, things went even worse than expected as the team won a measly two games.

Missing much of last season, can MJD rebound?

If the first game of 2013 is any indication, it may be difficult for him to do so. Jones-Drew had a tough time in Jacksonville’s disappointing 28-2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend and, like the rest of the team, couldn’t get much going. The running back had only 45 yards on 15 carries and just as bad, wasn’t a part of the passing attack failing to record a reception.

Writing Jones-Drew off this early in the year would be foolish. He’s already proven he is a successful back in the NFL and before his injury last year, was on pace for another 1,000-yard season. Having not even reached the age of 30, we’ll need to see a lot more before determining if he’s lost a step.

One reason why MJD can still be effective is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He has nearly 300 receptions over his career and that adds another dimension to the Jags’ offense. If teams want to pack defenders in tightly to stop the run, Jones-Drew can take a quick screen to open things up a bit.

That said, the problem Jones-Drew faces is that the team is so bad in the passing game and there are major issues at quarterback. The Jaguars finished in the bottom third of the league in passing yards last season and were nearly last in passer rating, finishing 28th. The bad news is that Jacksonville’s passing issues seem to have followed the team this year.

The Jaguars already went to backup Chad Henne after Blaine Gabbert struggled in the opener and suffered a hand injury late. Gabbert completed just over 50 percent of his passes and tossing two picks, and if he doesn’t improve, he’ll likely be replaced in favor of Henne – injury or not. Gabbert is only in his third season, so he’ll get more time to get better. With the success of last year’s rookies (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson), though, fans are getting impatient with the former first-round pick.

Jones-Drew is still a manageable 28 years old and can play a few more seasons. To be effective, though, he’ll need help. Without the threat of a passing game, yards will continue to be difficult to come by this year.

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Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events.
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