Mano A Mano: Davis vs. Jones-Drew

If the Jaguars are to successfully play spoiler on Thursday night running back Maurice Jones Drew will be counted on to shoulder the load. With Gary Brackett still recovering from a broken leg, LB Buster Davis will have to head up the Colts' rush defense. Is he up to the challenge against the small but powerful running back?

The Jacksonville Jaguars would like nothing more than to play spoiler to the post-season hopes of their arch nemesis—the Indianapolis Colts, and that's exactly what coach Dungy expects. "I'm sure they would like to knock us out," the coach said of the often-bitter rivalry. "We haven't really been in that situation, but when you are and you can't get in, that's the motivation, especially if it's a division rival. "I'm sure we'll get their best."

With Fred Taylor out for the season, the success of the Jags running game falls on Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew has had his way with the Colts, averaging 6.8 yards per carry and gaining over 100-yards in three of five career games against the Colts, including this season's Week 3 matchup.

Jones-Drew has had big days against the Colts in the past
AP Photo/Tom Strattman

While the Colts run defense has been more consistent against the run after a spotty start, the unit again will be without starting middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett.

So the burden of keeping the elusive Jones-Drew in-check is on Brackett's replacement, Buster Davis. At 5-feet-7, 208 pounds Jones-Drew is a load to bring down and always a breakaway threat.

Besides beating you with his legs, MJD is also dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. After catching no touchdown passes in the first twelve weeks, Jones Drew has caught one in each of the past two weeks and seen his receptions increase. Davis and the Colts linebackers will need to keep a constant eye on No. 32.

Despite being active in just four games, Davis was inserted into the starting lineup when Gary Brackett went down with a broken right fibula two weeks ago. Davis was a little rusty in his first start against Cincinnati, but had a much more active game last week, leading the Colts with eight tackles.

When Jacksonville employs the power rushing game with runs up the guts, Davis needs to clear his blockers, plug the middle gap and keep Jones Drew from breaking longer runs. Jones-Drew, though, likes to get outside and has enough power to run over tacklers when one-on-one.

Indianapolis is predicated on speed, so power runners with cutback ability usually have more success than those who go off tackle. But look for Jones Drew to stick with what's worked in the past against the Colts. If Safety Bob Sanders is back, expect to see plenty of him in the box with an eye on meeting Jones-Drew in the hole.

Jacksonville might also try to take advantage of the Colts' small front seven by spreading them out and using more one-back formations and zone blocking schemes that allow Maurice to demonstrate his elusiveness.

When this happens the Colts will likely be in nickel packages, and Buster Davis will be off the field. That's when we'll see Jones Drew in Bob Sanders' sights — a matchup between the unstoppable force versus the immovable object.

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