Although MJD ran a very good 40-time (4.37 seconds), he didn’t seem all that elusive, and there were certain durability concerns of a player that this particular reporter can stand up and see eye to eye with.
Three and a half years and 52 career touchdowns (and counting) later, Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, and in last weeks loss to San Francisco, the 5’7” back went over 1,000 yards rushing in his first true season as a starter.
“He’s done a nice job,” Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said of his star running back. “We made the move in the offseason to feature him. He’s just done a great job with the added opportunities and he’s a threat not only running the ball, but catching the ball out of the backfield and he’s a terrific blocker. He’s really put together a heck of a year for us.”
Jones-Drew is now the focus of every defense that the Jaguars face, and if the Texans are going to have any chance of stopping the proverbial bleeding from a three-game losing streak, they must limit the Jaguars most exciting player.
“He’s a key,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “We got to stop him, and it’s not just stopping him running the ball, I mean they’re throwing it to him on third down. He’s going to touch the ball 30 times in a game and as he goes, their football team goes; so that’s a big challenge for us.”
What makes Jones-Drew such an effective player is his low center of gravity, which you would expect in a 5’7” player, and his unbelievable balance. Many compare tackling the former UCLA star to trying to tackle a fire hydrant.
“You go back and look at his runs in college, I remember studying him coming out and he came out of a bunch of piles and made big plays when people thought he was down,” Kubiak said of Jones-Drew. “He’s fast too.”
Texans super-rookie linebacker Brian Cushing had one encounter with Jones-Drew earlier this year, and he saw the Jaguars back go for 119 yards on 23 carries, a game in which he scored three touchdowns.
“He’s a real good runner,” Cushing said of the man that played for his collegiate rival. “He’s done a great job this year. He’s already got over 1,000 yards rushing. As a defense that prides itself on stopping the run, we have our hands full this weekend.”
Four-year veteran Bernard Pollard has faced Jones-Drew three times in his career and he has nothing but respect for the Jaguars back of diminutive stature.
“He’s a wrecking ball,” Pollard said. “He deserves everything he’s gotten from the Jaguars and he’s one of the top running backs in the league and we’re going to go in there and we’re looking to shut down the running game.”
Maurice Jones-Drew’s presence in the Jaguars backfield has allowed quarterback David Garrard to face plenty of cover one defenses this season. Despite being the focus of every opponent, Jones-Drew is on track to be just the second Jacksonville Jaguars running back to earn a Pro Bowl selection.
The Texans know what they have to do this Sunday in regards to stopping Jones-Drew, but it’s obviously easier said than done.