Here's my take on the Jags running back situation
I'm sure my fans are dying for the next installment of what I think will be the eventual look of the Jaguars roster for 2003. Some have expressed accolades for my writing, while others just don't seem to get it. So, as promised, in this installment, I have decided to type very slowly so that even the slowest readers will be able to keep up (that's sarcasm for the humor impaired).
This installment is turning out to be a no-brainer. Quality running backs are hard enough to find. Having a running back with freakish ability is something that hardly ever presents itself. The Jaguars are rich in both instances, and it would best serve their interest to retain their top two running backs, while possibly drafting a third back if available.
Fred Taylor is coming into the last year of his rookie contract. He had a solid year in 2002 despite the record generated by his supporting cast. Fred ranked ninth overall for running backs in 2002 with 1,314 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns, and 408 yards receiving. His 1,722 total yards from scrimmage is the most production he has displayed in his 5-year career for a single season.
Stacey Mack offered a change of pace that also should be credited with giving Fred Taylor his first complete season without any serious injuries. His 9 touchdowns and over 500 yards of combined offense helped the Jaguars to their most successfully rushing season in franchise history.
The Jaguars must re-sign Fred, and they should do it this off-season. With rebuilding in full swing, assuring that one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL stays in your stable is an absolute must. And Fred offers that threat whenever he is on the field. He steadily showed improvement as the season wore on. By the end of the 2002 campaign, Fred clearly was just hitting his stride, and putting his injury shortened 2001 season completely behind him. He should be in the long-term plans for the Jaguars, and inking him to a deal now is the prudent thing for the team to do.
Stacey Mack should also be pursued by the franchise. According to front office sources, the Jaguars are already talking to his agent in an effort to avoid him becoming a free agent at the end of the month. Clearly, Mack wants to remain a Jaguar, but his desire to be a featured back may take precedent over his loyalty to the franchise. However, the market for running backs is not clearly going to be an active one. So Mack's value in free agency could prove to be even more costly if the Jaguars don't step up and make a move quickly. If their desire is to retain his services, look for action in the next week to secure his future with this team. Once he enters free agency, the Jaguars cannot afford to get into a bidding war to keep him around.
Now, in the event that we do lose Stacey Mack, or even if we don't for that matter, a prospect that we need to look at in the 2nd round of the draft is a running back out of Colorado, Chris Brown. Brown, a 6-foot-2 and 230 pound big-back, who is much, like Mack in his between the tackles ability. Like Mack, he is not a fleet of foot, but he is a bruiser. He has good vision of the field, which has always been a downfall for Stacey Mack, and he runs intelligently. He follows his blocks and is patient coming out of the backfield. He is projected to be a mid 2nd rounder, and could work very nicely with our team if selected.
A lot depends on what happens with Stacey Mack. If he opts to leave via free agency, look for the Jags to take a gander at Brown. If Mack stays, then we should be set with Taylor and Joseph completing the set.
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