Maurice Jones-Drew remains a backup – perhaps in name only – but Jacksonville will definitely be without one of its star players Sunday when the Jaguars meet the Vikings at the Metrodome.
On Friday, linebacker Daryl Smith was ruled out with an abdomen injury. While Vikings fans may not be familiar with Smith, he is Jacksonville's all-time leading tackler and a stalwart of the Jags defense.
Paul Posluszny, who came to the Jags last year and recorded 192 tackles, said that his contribution to the Jaguar defense is overshadowed by Smith's on-field presence.
"He's our best defender on the field," Posluszny told the local Jacksonville beat writers. "Whenever he's out there, we're a much better defense. He's the type of player that makes impactful plays, does everything right every time and he's extremely trustworthy on the field."
While Smith has been ruled out, the Jaguars remain semi-silent on the role that Maurice Jones-Drew will play in the offense Sunday. Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams, who coached defensive backs for the Colts for the entirety of Jones-Drew's career, has seen what MJD can do twice a year. Williams is skeptical when he hears talk that a healthy MJD won't be used to the fullest extent against the Vikings.
"Do you believe that?" Williams asked in response to a question about whether he was buying into Jones-Drew's subordinate role. "I've seen him for the last few years at Indianapolis and, preseason or not, I'm not even sure if he was there he would have been playing in the preseason, so I don't take any stock into that either. We'll be ready for him first, second, third and fourth down. He's a guy that you would have to pay attention to. Being on the sideline or being in the ballgame, we're going to know where he is at all times."
From the sounds of things, the Vikings may be expecting more of a dose of Jones-Drew than Jacksonville is letting on. However, the difference between winning and losing may have tipped more in the favor of the Vikings with Friday's announcement of Smith not playing than the Jags non-elaboration on the MJD status for Sunday. Jacksonville's chances of winning Sunday took a bigger hit with Smith being ruled out than if Jones-Drew had been in training camp when it opened 38 days before he reported.
Vikings fans have no reason to be overconfident, their odds of celebrating a win Sunday just got a lot better, whether you know the guy who is the reason or not.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.