To say the Jacksonville Jaguars are a team in turmoil is a bit of an understatement. In the last month owner Wayne Weaver sold the team and head coach Jack Del Rio was let go. And now speculation has the team as a potential relocation prospect. Despite the distractions surrounding the team and a 3-9 record, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is leading the NFL in rushing (1,137 yards on 250 carries, 4.5-yard average) and that doesn’t bode well for the Buccaneers' struggling run defense.
Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake knows how dangerous Jones-Drew can be.
“Maurice Jones-Drew,” Lake said. “That guy is a beast. He runs physical. He is a guy that you would want on your team. You can tell he runs with passion. He runs behind his pads. He's always looking to run somebody over. He's looking to hurt you when he runs the football. He's their team. They throw the ball to him on check downs. He got about almost ten receptions on Monday Night Football. That guy, if we can stop him, then we are going to feel pretty good on defense. He is their team.”
In his Wednesday press conference Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris talked about the problems Jones-Drew poses.
“It's called the toughness,” Morris said. “Jones-Drew, he hasn't seen a fight he didn’t like and he shows that every single week. He's been showing it since he's been in the league. He's one of the toughest guys you'll play against. He's hard to tackle, hard to bring down. He's a rolling ball of butcher knives and he runs angry, he runs violent. He's one of those guys you want on your football team, no doubt about that.”
Jones-Drew laughed when told of Morris description.
“Ah man, how about this, tell him thank you. I appreciate that,” Jones-Drew said during a conference call Wednesday. “That is a very violent physical thing that he named. But tell him to take it easy on my boy Brian Price. We are having a down year at UCLA already. I don’t want to hear about my guy getting chewed out all the time. He is going through some trying times. UCLA is in a dark hour. But tell him I appreciate that."
Inside the Buccaneers locker room Thursday players, agreed with their coach's description and know stopping the former Bruin will be one of their biggest challenges of the season.
Rookie Adrian Clayborn said Jones-Drew is a unique NFL back.
“He runs with his whole body. He can run you over and he can juke you. You know he’s an experienced back because [watching film] you can tell he knows where the hole will be. We will need to stop the run – that’s their bread and butter. We have to go into the game planning to stop that and make them throw the ball.”
Fellow rookie Mason Foster is impressed after watching film of Jones-Drew this week.
“Big time player, runs real low to the ground and makes a lot of plays,” Foster said. “Like a little bowling ball that packs a big punch.
“You can load the box or do whatever and he is still going to make his plays. That’s just the type of player he is. It's going to come down to just making more plays than he is making and trying to contain him. Because he is going to make plays.”
Morris told the media this week he plans on scaling the defense back a little bit and allowing the players to play more on instinct. Foster thinks it can only help the defenses’ woes.
“Anytime you can scale things back it's going to help everybody out regardless,” Foster said. “It’s going to help you play faster. You aren’t thinking as much and there aren’t as many checks. But at the same time there's still a lot going on. It’s just not that easy. You still have to be on top of everything. But I think it’s a good idea.”