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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Jaguars-Browns game.
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Browns run defense
The Jaguars have attempted 290 rushes against just 263 pass plays (239 passes, 24 sacks). Most teams pass more than run, but the ground game is the strength of the Jaguars' offense.
And Jones-Drew is the reason.
Jaguars rookie QB Blaine Gabbert is a work-in-progress. He has more incompletions (101) than completions (93). The Jaguars' WR corps has a couple of solid targets in Mike Thomas (32 catches) and Jason Hill (19 catches), and TE Marcedes Lewis (16 catches) has proven a tough matchup in the passing game at various points of his career, but overall, this isn't a passing game that inspires much fear in the opposition. The Jaguars are gaining 4.2 yards per attempt, worst in the NFL.
Even with the passing game limited, Jones-Drew has had a productive season, racking up 854 yards on 191 carries (4.5 ypc). He has all four of the Jaguars' rushing TDs. He gained 114 yards on 25 carries in the Jaguars' 17-3 win at Indianapolis on Sunday. Four of Jacksonville's 10 longest plays were Jones-Drew rushes of 12, 13, 14 and 15 yards.
The 5-7, 208-pound Jones-Drew has uncommon strength for his size, and he can get the tough yards inside, leaving would-be tacklers empty-handed in his wake.
No team has run up the middle more than Jacksonville, and with good reason — the Jaguars are gaining a healthy 4.5 yards per carry testing the interior of the defense. The Browns, who are stout up the middle with DTs Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor and MLB D'Qwell Jackson, defend such runs well, but Jones-Drew has the skills to vex any defense. Also, opponents have hardly shied away from running on the Browns, who are allowing the third-most rushing yards per game. Look for the Jaguars to again feature Jones-Drew, and it will be on Cleveland to try and force Jacksonville into the type of must-pass situations it wants to avoid.