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2013 position review: Running back

1/7/2014

Each day for the next two weeks we’ll review how each position group performed in 2013, and take an early look at 2014. Today we’ll examine the running backs. We did quarterbacks on Monday, and we will do tight ends on Wednesday.

Running back

Breakdown of starts: Maurice Jones-Drew (15), Jordan Todman (1).

Recap: Jones-Drew led the Jaguars in rushing for the sixth consecutive season with 803 yards, but his 3.4 yards per carry average was the lowest single-season total of his career and more than a yard shy of his career average (4.6). The offensive line's struggle to adjust to a zone-blocking scheme, and Jones-Drew being less than a year removed from Lisfranc surgery were contributing factors. He said he wasn’t able to do his normal offseason training routine because he was rehabbing the injury. Jones-Drew also battle knee, ankle and hamstring issues throughout the season.

Jones-Drew clearly wasn’t the player he was when he led the NFL in rushing in 2011, but he was still effective. The biggest difference was his lack of explosiveness. He had just three runs of 30 or more yard this season (30, 44 and 48 yards).

Todman didn’t have much more success than Jones-Drew did statistically -- he also averaged 3.4 yards per carry -- but he matched Jones-Drew’s number of 100-yard games. He ran for 109 yards against Buffalo in his only start of the season. Jones-Drew sat out that game with a hamstring injury.

It was Todman’s emergence this season that kept Justin Forsett from getting on the field much. The Jaguars signed Forsett in March, but he suffered a sprained toe on his right foot on Aug. 1 in the first live practice period of training camp and missed the rest of camp and all of the preseason. Meanwhile, Todman led the team in rushing in the preseason (223 yards) and earned a bigger role on offense.

Forsett ended up with just 21 touches in the first 11 games (he was active but did not play in two games) before fracturing a bone in his foot against Houston on Dec. 5.

Fifth-round draft pick Denard Robinson started the season as an offensive weapon, moved to receiver, and finally settled in at running back in October, but the former Michigan quarterback didn’t get much work (20 carries for 66 yards). He had trouble holding onto the ball.

Looking ahead to 2014

Players under contract: Todman, Forsett, Robinson, Will Ta'ufo'ou (fullback), Delone Carter, Shaun Chapas.

The skinny: The big issue is whether the Jaguars will be able to re-sign Jones-Drew, who becomes a free agent March 17. Jones-Drew said money is a factor, and the Jaguars might not be willing to pay what he wants. However, Jones-Drew might find he’s not going to be able to find what he wants on the open market because teams could be reluctant to pay much for a nearly 30-year-old running back with injury issues the past two seasons.

If the Jaguars do not re-sign Jones-Drew, expect them to address the position either in free agency or the draft. Todman has proven to be a complementary back at this point in his career, but isn’t capable of being a feature back.

Robinson is a bit of a wild card. If he can improve his ball security, he should get more work. He’s got good speed, and is a very good open-field runner. The Jaguars would love to be able to use him as a receiver out of the backfield, but they have to trust his hands, and they’re not close to being able to do that.

Ta’ufo’ou is on the field for roughly a third of the offensive snaps, and coach Gus Bradley said he was pleased with his performance. Carter joined the team in early December and was active for two games. Chapas joined the team in late November, and recently signed a futures contract.