When mini-camp began for the Jaguars last week, there was a lot of intrigue regarding new rookies coming to practice, free agent acquisitions and a hopefully rejuvenated defense. However, it's difficult to think about the season getting underway without the franchise's leading rusher.
"Fred (Taylor) is definitely going to be a guy who we will always miss and it'll be hard to fill his shoes," said quarterback David Garrard.
"I think Maurice (Jones-Drew) is doing a great job, and the other guys are doing a great job as well," added Garrard.
Jones-Drew himself is confident that the team can move forward without Taylor, but he certainly misses his former teammate.
"We're still doing the same things. Actually I'm going to call Fred today," said Jones-Drew. "It's a little different not having him around but we're still the same guys."
Helping Jones-Drew carry the load will be Greg Jones, Montell Owens, Alvin Pearman, Chauncey Washington and rookie Rashad Jennings, who has impressed Jones-Drew early on. Although Taylor was a great player in his prime, his production slipped last year, so replacing Taylor as a leader is even more crucial for Jones-Drew, who is taking to his new role.
"A leader is not one who talks; it's one who shows his work," added Maurice Jones-Drew. "So I just come in everyday, work hard and I feel like if I keep working hard and keep challenging guys, we'll all get better and everybody's a leader."
The Jaguars have brought several veterans like Torry Holt and Tra Thomas to help bring some leadership to the locker room.
"He's got a good presence about him," Coach Jack Del Rio said about Holt. "One thing you get with Torry, a competitive guy, he's serious about his trade."
Jacksonville is hoping that Holt and Jones-Drew can lead by example, which will help lessen the blow of losing an experience player like Taylor. While losing Taylor will hurt the team on the field and especially off it, Jones-Drew and other teammates know that the NFL is a business.
"When I first got in the league, everyone was saying it's a revolving door," said Jones-Drew.