Taylor is still Jaguars' featured back

For the first time since he played behind James Stewart in the opening two games of his 1998 rookie season, a perfectly healthy Fred Taylor didn't have to carry a bulk of the workload in Sunday's 24-21 win over the Houston Texans.

Surprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-5), who return to Texas this week to play the Dallas Cowboys, gave the ball more to Stacey Mack for the majority of the game. Taylor got the last five carries on the final two drives to wind up with one more rushing attempt, but this marked the first time in Mack's career that he was as much the featured back as a healthy Taylor. Mack did get 15 carries to Taylor's 20 earlier this year in a 28-3 win over the New York Jets. But there wasn't as much a conscious effort by the coaching staff to put the burden on Mack from the beginning of that game as there was against the Texans.

Instead of using Mack in exclusively short-yardage, goal line situations, the Jaguars employed him more in the middle of the field in a true time-share program with Taylor. At one point, Mack had eight carries to just one for Taylor. Coach Tom Coughlin said it's not a change in the team's approach so much as it was strategy for this one opponent.

"It just had to do with our plan to try to attack that team," said Coughlin. "It was more utilization of a certain personnel grouping [for Mack] other than just short yardage."

On two occasions, the Jaguars even lined up the pair together, putting Taylor (13 carries, 56 yards) at fullback before sending him out in motion. Mack (12 carries, 54 yards) was stopped for no gain on one play and the other resulted in an incomplete pass to Jimmy Smith.

"It kind of just worked out that way," said Mack. "We hadn't used that formation or strategy much since the Jets game, but it worked out well for us. Whoever is in a rhythm gets the carries."

Taylor hasn't been in much of a rhythm lately. Though he's on pace for a 1,300-yard season, his ability to break the big run hasn't manifested itself as much this season. Over the last four games, Taylor has carried the ball 65 times for 231 yards for an average of 3.5 yards, over a yard below his career average. His longest run during that span is just 18 yards and only five runs went for at least 10 yards.

"Well, the defenses are pretty good that we're playing against," said coach Tom Coughlin. "That's one thing. He had two nice long runs [15 and 18 yards against Houston] that were real close to coming out of there. People were in position to eventually close in on him and he couldn't get beyond the last line of defense."

While defenses have been able to contain Taylor's cutback running style, opponents have had a more difficult time keeping the 238-pound Mack from physically punishing them. Mack is averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season, compared to Taylor's 4.2.

But just because they got equal time against the Texans doesn't mean Mack will be featured just as much or more in the Jaguars' six remaining games. "We'll see," said Coughlin. "It depends on how the plan sets up."


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