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Taking aim

Posted Dec 20, 2011

Jaguars linemen want franchise record for Jones-Drew

Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri doesn’t see falling short as an option.

Not with running back Maurice Jones-Drew leading the NFL in rushing by 60 yards with two games remaining, and not with Jones-Drew also within range of the franchise rushing record.

Attaining the aforementioned goals won’t necessarily be easy, Nwaneri said.

That doesn’t mean they won’t be attained.

“He’ll get it,” Nwaneri said of the franchise record Tuesday as the Jaguars (4-10) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (7-7) at LP Field in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Saturday at 1 p.m.

Jones-Drew, a Pro Bowl selection the past two seasons, has 1,334 yards rushing through 14 games. LeSean McCoy of Philadelphia is second in the NFL with 1,274 yards. Jones-Drew’s yardage total through 14 games is already the fourth-best in franchise history, with Fred Taylor’s 1,572 yards in 2003 the franchise record.

Jones-Drew has been asked often in recent weeks about the rushing title, and on Wednesday, he reiterated his month-long stance.

“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “I can tell you I’d rather win, because who cares about a rushing title when our record would be 4-12 if we lose both games? If we get it, we get it. I’d rather win the next two. It’s really about winning right now.”

Jones-Drew said he felt similarly about reaching Taylor’s record, saying while it would matter, “At the same time, I want to win.”

“This is like the third year we’ve had a decent season running the ball, but we’ve had a losing record,” Jones-Drew said. “You kind of get tired of that. I’d rather have a horrible season rushing the ball and win than anything. That’s something we’re working on.”

Jones-Drew’s teammates feel more strongly. And when asked about the rushing title, fullback Greg Jones said, “That’s one of the main reasons why I do it, that I could say, ‘I blocked for the NFL’s leading rusher.’’’

“That’d be another patch on my belt when I’m done,” Jones said.

The Jaguars’ linemen said to them, it’s more than a patch and more than a goal to talk about during media time during the week. Being one of the top running teams in the NFL is an annual goal, and Nwaneri said a rushing title would make a strong case they had achieved that objective.

Asked if getting the 238 yards to catch Taylor was important, Nwaneri said, “Yeah, big-time.”

“That will seal up the title,” Nwaneri said. “It’s always important. It’s one of our goals, but especially with him having the lead right now, for the offensive line that’s our most important goal.”

Jaguars center Brad Meester said while the title would be important to the linemen, as important would be getting it for a player who had earned such an accolade.

“We’re definitely trying to achieve that for him,” Meester said. “He’s a tremendous player, a leader of this group. With everything that he gives out there each practice and each game, it would mean the world for us to get that. He deserves that. We want him to get the rushing title and the record. That would be huge.”

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Meester, with two games remaining in his 12th NFL and Jaguars season, said he would like to return for a 13th season. He said while he has thought of retirement, “I would like to come back. I’m committed to this team and I know we are doing all the right things. I want to be here when we win that championship.” Meester has started every game at center for the Jaguars this season.

*Interim coach Mel Tucker said the Jaguars expanded their individual section of practice Tuesday from 10 minutes to 20 to focus on technique, fundamentals and execution. “That paid off for us and that’s going to pay off for us on Saturday,” Tucker said. “When you look back at the film from our previous games it’s not a matter of effort or toughness or want to or anything like that, it’s really a matter of execution and technique and discipline. So we’re going to put a heavy emphasis on that this week and we had a good start today.”

*Wide receiver Mike Thomas (concussion) worked lightly Tuesday, but was not cleared for contact, Tucker said, while defensive end Matt Roth (concussion) also worked lightly and did not practice. Thomas did not play last week and Roth has missed the last four games.

*Safety Dwight Lowery (shoulder) “did not do much” Tuesday, and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah worked with the starters at safety during the period of practice open to the media. Owusu-Ansah played 71 of 72 plays on Thursday against Atlanta for Lowery, who started and played one play before leaving the game with soreness in his shoulder.

*Jones-Drew practiced on a limited basis Tuesday. He rolled an ankle last Thursday against Atlanta, but said Tuesday his practice status was simply in keeping with his typical status on the first day of practice each week this season.

*Linebacker Russell Allen practiced in a non-contact red jersey, something Tucker said the Jaguars did to keep Allen from “getting banged up” in practice this week.

*Jones-Drew said he likes how Gabbert has responded to season-long criticism, and said the two talked about the issue and how to handle it over dinner Saturday. “I think he’s done well,” Jones-Drew said. “We had a chance to talk about it and he knows in this league when you’re the quarterback when you get paid the big money you’ve got to take the criticism. He’s done well with that. It’s funny how the fans were screaming for him at the beginning of the year and they wanted him to be out there. We all have our problems, but most of it’s not him. The guys around him have to make plays. Obviously, when we lose games the blame goes right on him. I told him, ‘You have to understand that fans are going to be fans – they’re going to say the positive things when things are going positive and they’re going to say negative when things are going negative.’’’ Jones-Drew also added of Gabbert, “I think this off-season is going to be pretty pivotal for him, where he gets to work with the receivers and for him to continue to build that rapport and that chemistry and that camaraderie where they know what he’s thinking and he knows what they’re thinking. Going into next year that would definitely help him out more.”

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