Jaguars RB Karim embracing larger role in backfield

Posted Sept. 16, 2011 @ 4:30 p.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

After having played the first 14 games of the 2010 campaign with a torn meniscus before shutting it down and undergoing knee surgery, RB Maurice Jones-Drew was handled cautiously by the Jaguars. They limited his work in camp and held him out of the first three preseason games, trying to allow his right knee as much time as possible to recover and keep Jacksonville's most valuable asset fresh for the regular season.

There was no rust to speak of in Week One, however. He carried the ball 24 times for 97 yards and a touchdown, running with the speed and power that makes him one of the league's best backs. Yet, Jones-Drew was unhappy with head coach Jack Del Rio holding him out for much of the fourth quarter, as Del Rio later explained MJD was on a play count.

Enter second-year RB Deji Karim, 24, who has a much larger role this season after backup Rashad Jennings suffered a season-ending knee injury in camp. The 5-8, 209 pound Karim flashed as a rookie, averaging 4.6 yards in a limited sample size. But his biggest contributions came on special teams, where he was the team's primary kick returner, gaining 25.0 yards per return.

Karim discussed his increased role in the backfield in a recent phone interview with PFW.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity, but I'm approaching things the way I usually do," he said. "My main focus this offseason was improving my route running and pass protection."

Against the Titans, Karim was given a career-high 14 carries, though he gained just 33 yards (2.4 avg.). He was more effective in the passing game, with three receptions for 39 yards, including an excellent third-down catch midway through the third quarter, in which he made two Titans miss and moved the chains for a 12-yard gain. The play perfectly illustrated the burst and elusiveness that has the Jaguars so high on him.

Karim said initially he was "pissed" when he learned of the new kickoff rules this offseason, but special-teams coordinator Russ Purnell still gives him freedom to make plays.

"If I catch [the ball] moving forward, I should be fine. Decisions have to be made quicker, but if I hit a crease I'm more likely to go a long way."

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