When Maurice Jones Drew ended his holdout Air Jordan 18s Sept. 2 and participated in his first position meeting a day later, Jaguars running backs Jordan Retro 3 coach Sylvester Croom thought he had a little bit of everything at his disposal.
He had Jones Drew, the NFL’s reigning rushing champion. He had Rashad Jennings, who rushed for Air Jordan 6s 209 yards in the preseason to calm any worries about his 2011 knee injury. And in reserve, he had veteran Montell Owens and newcomer Jalen Parmele, who could produce if needed.
“We really thought we had tremendous depth,” Croom said. “And beyond that, even the guys that did not make the final cut [Richard Murphy and Keith Toston] we felt really good about bringing back if anything happened.”
Anything didn’t happen. Everything happened.
The result heading into Sunday’s finale at Tennessee is a franchise record for fewest rushing yards, attempts and touchdowns and uncertainty about the position heading into the off season.
The Jaguars, along with Green Bay, are the only NFL teams that have five non quarterbacks with at least 20 carries.
Jennings, Jones Drew, Owens and Parmele have all started games this year and have all missed time due to injuries.
Murphy and Toston were brought back and joined at various points by Jordan Todman (before he got hurt) and currently Jonathan Grimes.
Even fullback Greg Jones has been banged up, missing four games.
“It’s the most I’ve had in 35 years of coaching at any position,” Croom said. “I’ve never lost this many players. I’ve learned one thing when you think it’s finally bottomed out and it can’t get any worse, look out because it will get worse.”
It started out bad and never got better.
Jennings was hurt in the opener, Jones Drew, Jones and Owens (all Week 6), Parmele (Week 11), Jennings again (Week 12) and Todman (Week 13). Jones Drew has missed nine straight games but still leads the team with 414 yards.
The backups showed the occasional flash but the MJD like production simply wasn’t there. Some games got away from the Jaguars and they had to scrap the running plan. The often in flux offensive line wasn’t creating room. And there were yards to be gained that weren’t, chiefly by Jennings, who was benched between injuries.
“There were a lot of things,” coach Mike Mularkey said. “We’ve had a constant rotation going on up front, we missed Greg for a number of games and that’s a big thing in the run game for us. We tried to get it established.”
The Jaguars have only two rushes of 30 or more yards a 59 yard score by Jones Drew in Week 3 at Indianapolis and a 32 yard touchdown by Owens in Week 14 against the Jets.
The off season could bring a retooling at the position. Jennings, Parmele and Jones are free agents. The Jaguars don’t want to tax Owens to where he can’t be a Pro Bowl caliber player on special teams.
The big issue remains Jones Drew. He has one year left on a contract the team refused to rework last off season. The consensus is the Jaguars are letting him play out the deal.
But what is Jones Drew’s figurative odometer at?
Jones Drew turns 28 in March and has 1,954 career touches (carries, receptions and returns). He had missed only two games because of injury before going down against the Raiders.
Examining the toll that a rushing crown takes on a back, Edgerrin James was limited to six games and 662 yards in 2001, Curtis Martin retired a year after winning the 2004 title and most recently, Seattle’s Shaun Alexander was never the same after rushing for 1,880 yards in 2005.
Jones Drew did not practice Wednesday and hasn’t since being injured. It Air Jordan 2011 is unlikely he will return for Sunday’s game, which would give him nine months between the injury and training camp.
Regardless of who is on the depth chart, Mularkey wants the running game to remain Air Jordan Fusion 4 a big part of the Jaguars’ offense.
“We’ve gotten away from it a little bit,” he said. “But it’s not going to go away. It’s a big emphasis for us.”