Jaguars Camping Without Fred

Fred Taylor was unceremoniously released by the Jaguars this offseason. His presence on the field will be missed, but his leadership in the locker room will undoubtedly be difficult to replace. Maurice Jones-Drew must replace Taylor in both aspects and he, along with several other savvy veterans, must find a way to move on without the inspirational veteran.

For the first time since 1997, the Jacksonville Jaguars will begin the season without Fred Taylor on the roster. The veteran was a former first-round pick by the Jaguars and was a dynamic runner when healthy. One of the all-time greats, Taylor was released this offseason and his absence has been noticed early on.

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.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Kosovac/JagNation)
Taylor will be difficult to replace, as a leader and as a player, and Jacksonville will entrust its running game to Maurice Jones-Drew, who led the team with 824 rushing yards last season. In three seasons, Jones-Drew has established himself as an explosive runner with phenomenal power, but the 5'7" back has never been a featured back as a pro. Accounting for a majority of the team's carriers last year, Jones-Drew did establish faith amongst his teammates that he is more than capable of getting the job done.

"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.

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