Are the Jaguars Changing Their Identity

Generally the third preseason game is when a team is looking to make a statement that it is ready to open the regular season. The fourth and final preseason game is usually nothing more than a glorified walkthrough or tune-up for the deep backups, with most regulars only making a cameo appearance.

Using the above belief, last Saturday's game against Tampa Bay showed that the Jaguars' passing game is pretty much set. But the running game doesn't get the same endorsement.

Despite the fact that Jaguars linemen, running backs and quarterback David Garrard advocated during the week that the running attack would be OK, that it would come around, it was anything but that against the Bucs.

Granted, star running back Maurice Jones-Drew watched the game from his theatre-styled room at home in Jacksonville, but it showed that should the team's best player go down during the season, the running game could become non-existent.

The Jaguars have now rushed for 14, 54 and 109 yards in three preseason games, an average of 59 yards a game. Jones-Drew's total in the three games is a meager minus-2 yards.

Assuming that Thursday's encounter with Atlanta in the final preseason contest will find Jones-Drew getting no more than one full quarter's worth of action, it leaves the Jaguars in a precarious position. They could be entering the regular-season opener against Denver on Sept. 12 with a running game that has yet to work together with any sustained success. Immediately after the Tampa game, Garrard said "...the offense looked great tonight. This offense is definitely ready to start the season."

His passing numbers of 24-for-31 for 211 yards and one TD would qualify as being ready.

Not only has Jones-Drew seen relatively little action (six carries) in the first three preseason games, but the offensive line is still a work in progress. Offensive tackle Eben Britton saw his first action of the year and had several breakdowns. Eugene Monroe wasn't at his best, even committing two penalties on one play. And the team continues to juggle the interior of the line looking for the best three-man combo.

Garrard said that Jones-Drew's lack of playing time shouldn't be considered a concern.

"Maurice is a guy that is going to show up ready to go. It doesn't concern me, just his health in general would concern me more. I talked to him the other day and he said he was fine, just being cautious with him," Garrard said.

Garrard might be overly optimistic about the running attack. With the team not wanting to expose Jones-Drew in this week's final preseason game, he'll start the regular season with only a handful of carries and very little playing time. In an opener that will be played at 1 p.m. ET with temperature and heat index figures that could both exceed the 90-degree mark, stamina and conditioning will be a factor.

The Jaguars' O-line will be set by that time. But their live game action with the unit's best back will be limited. The passing game may be asked to do more than what was originally planned, at least until the running game comes together.

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