Jaguars Positional Analysis: Running Back

The next position we are going to grade for the 2006 season is the running back position. The Jaguars running back situation was somewhat of a question mark headed into the '06 season with Greg Jones' torn ACL in the preseason, Fred Taylor's injury history, the lack of effectiveness of Alvin Pearman and LaBrandon Toefield, and especially the small stature of second round pick Maurice Jones-Drew.

All of those questions were answered positively, as the Jaguars set of running backs were among the best in the NFL, and the best in team history.

Strengths: Fred Taylor stayed healthy for most of the season as he started 15 games and finished with 1146 yards while averaging 5.0 yards per carry. The most amazing part is that he did this while splitting considerable time with Maurice Jones-Drew. Taylor showed a nice burst and was as explosive as he's ever been, as he had a long run of 76 yards against Indianapolis.

Maurice Jones-Drew was the surprise of the year for the Jaguars. Jones-Drew set a team record with 2250 all-purpose yards despite starting just one game, and having five games of five carries or less. Jones-Drew finished second in rookie of the year voting behind the hype-machine which is Vince Young. Jones-Drew also finished third in the NFL with 16 touchdowns. Jones-Drew showed explosive speed, with an ability to run people over despite standing just 5'7" tall and 210 lbs. If Jones-Drew can stay healthy, he can certainly be the new face of the franchise with his super-human running skills and sparkling off-the-field personality.

Alvin Pearman and LaBrandon Toefield's roles were considerably reduced due to the emergence of Maurice Jones-Drew. Pearman's main role was that of a punt returner, which he was average, as well as a fill-in, third down back. Toefield was only active for four games in the '06 season. Derrick Wimbush filled in as the fullback, and finished the season with just one carry and four receptions. Wimbush's most active role was a blocker, and filling in with kickoff return duties.

Weaknesses: The Jaguars running backs don't have many weaknesses, especially considering they finished second in the NFL in rushing. Fred Taylor has certainly had a long injury history in his career, but when healthy, Taylor is among the best backs in the NFL. Taylor is now 31 years old, and that's when most running backs production tends to fall off.

Maurice Jones-Drew doesn't really have any weaknesses as a running back. There are some questions if he can handle the bulk of the carries if Taylor goes down, but nothing was shown in the '06 season to prove that he can't.

Alvin Pearman doesn't have great running skills, and his speed is considered average at best. LaBrandon Toefield has potential to be a good back, but will probably not see too much playing time in Jacksonville unless someone gets injured. Derrick Wimbush has good running skills, but hasn't been overly productive in his limited opportunities.

Overall 2006 season grade: A.
The Jaguars finished the 2006 season ranked second in the NFL in rushing, only behind Atlanta who has a running quarterback. Fred Taylor was a pro-bowl first alternate, and Maurice Jones-Drew is a legitimate budding superstar. No one that watched the Jaguars in the preseason could have imagined that the running backs would be as successful as they were. The highlight of the Jaguars season was their 44-17 victory over Indianapolis when the team rushed for a franchise record 375 yards.

Are changes necessary?
In a word, no. With this set of running backs returning along with fullback Greg Jones, the Jaguars running game should be even more effective in 2007.

2006 Position Strength: 10/10
This unit took over games and left opponents grasping at air all year long. They improved from 10th in rushing in 2005 (123 ypg) to 3rd in rushing in 2006 (159 ypg). Taylor and Jones-Drew even chipped in with 69 receptions between them. The return of Greg Jones from injury and Toefield from free agency makes this group the finest stable of backs in the league.

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