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Recent posts by Arthur Arkush
To borrow a phrase from Bears head coach Lovie Smith, the Jaguars got off the bus running on a cold, blustery day in Nashville. On their first offensive series, the Jags marched 77 yards on 12 plays in 6:35, resulting in an 11-yard TD scamper by Rashad Jennings on 4th-and-1. The Jags ran the ball 11 times for 71 yards on the drive. In fact, of the 73 offensive plays the Jags ran on Sunday, 53 of them were running plays — a franchise record and the true definition of smash-mouth football. And with a RB that is on a roll like Maurice Jones-Drew, it would be criminal not to feed him. Jones-Drew, who has five consecutive 100-yard rushing efforts to his name, toted the rock 31 times for a career-best 186 yards, including a TD.
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The Jags are gaining 184.8 rushing yards per game in the past five weeks. Head coach Jack Del Rio has been challenging his star RB to surpass the 150-yard mark during that stretch, and Jones-Drew answered the call on Sunday. He ran over, around and through the Titans on the way to his finest game as a pro. Jones-Drew loves getting the ball in crunch time and he has picked up the Jaguars and placed them on top of his 5-7, 208-pound frame over the past month. The scary part is he appears to be getting stronger.
He is also getting a big boost from his offensive teammates. The Jags' offensive line is getting outstanding push, especially on the right side over the past several weeks. OLG Vince Manuwai is finally all the way back after tearing his ACL in the first game of the 2008 season, and he is pulling to the right and pancaking helpless defenders on the second level. And he isn't alone. ORG Uche Nwaneri is showing why the Jags extended his contract for another five years and $24 million in September. Marcedes Lewis just might be the best blocking tight end in the NFL.
Backup RB Rashad Jennings also has gotten in on the fun. Jennings has TDs in back-to-back games and is gaining a gaudy 5.1 yards per carry this season. Jones-Drew never wants to come off the field, but Jennings allows Del Rio and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to feel very comfortable spelling the franchise back. Jennings, a 6-1, 228-pound bruiser out of Liberty, has a very bright future in this league.
With a running game as electric as the one the Jags possess, and a young defense that continues to grow each week, the Jags are proving that the recipe of possessing the ball, wearing down the defense and not making mistakes still works in today's pass-happy league. Koetter has been masterful in mixing in just enough low-risk passing plays to keep the pressure off QB David Garrard and on opposing defenses.
Looking ahead to the final four weeks, the Jaguars will host the Raiders, travel to Indy before hosting the Redskins in the home finale and finishing up the season in Houston. The Jags should be favored in three of the four remaining games, with the trip to Indy being the one exception.
The key for the Jags this week is not looking ahead to the opportunity to deliver the knockout blow to their AFC South-rival Colts on Indy's turf. Oakland has been extremely inconsistent this season, and it has to make the dreaded cross-country journey to face a red-hot Jags club, but it looked very impressive in shocking the Chargers in San Diego on Sunday.
The fact is the Jaguars have been in this position before. They were 8-5 in 2006 before dropping the final three games. They were 7-5 last season and in control of their playoff destiny before a major choke job in December in which they lost their final four games. But it's a new year and the team is clearly on the rise.