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Backs still carrying the load


Dennis Northcutt wants to be number three, not number one, for unselfish reasons. Greg Jones just wants to be a fullback, but it appears he may get more time at running back, for all the right reasons.

As the Jaguars prepare to close their 2008 training camp, the team appears to have a shortage of wide receivers and an abundance of running backs. Some things never seem to change.

"In an ideal world, you have Jerry Porter here and Reggie Williams there and Dennis Northcutt in the slot. This isn't a perfect world," Northcutt told reporters on Wednesday.

In the Jaguars' imperfect world of wide receivers, their number one and two guys are recovering from surgeries, another wide receiver with number one-type size and speed is hobbled by a leg injury and for the second consecutive year, Northcutt, a guy who was signed in 2007 to be a number three/slot receiver, is having to pick up the slack.

"One thing that's allowed me to last as long as I have is I've always prepared to be the number one guy. I've studied the game. I know what our coordinator is trying to accomplish on every play," Northcutt said.

Northcutt enjoyed one of the best years of his career last season. He was the Jaguars' top receiver for much of the season, finishing the year just one catch behind team-leader Ernest Wilford. Unfortunately, Northcutt is remembered most for the pass he dropped in the playoff loss to the Patriots.

What seems to be forgotten is that Northcutt was signed to be a support-role receiver. He was signed to be a third-down receiver and punt-returner.

The Jaguars addressed their need for a number one receiver during this year's offseason by signing Porter to a pricey contract. The Jaguars also traded for Troy Williamson, a big, fast pass-catcher who stood out in spring OTAs. Porter is out of action until the start of the regular season, however, and Williamson is hobbled.

"I understand what we're trying to do here. I really want Jerry and Reggie (Williams) to get back here. I have bigger goals and one is not being selfish. I can't wait for them to get back," Northcutt said. "If I'm starting, that means we're hurting somewhere.

"I'm a football guy and I'm a competitor. I am also a team player; an unselfish player. I understand my role is to help the football team. If I go into the season as a slot guy, I am totally happy with that," he added.

When Northcutt will assume the role for which he was cast depends on Porter's and Williams' recovery timelines. If and when the Jaguars wide receiving corps returns to full strength, the Jaguars will have a deep group. Until then, the offensive burden is likely to continue to fall on the running game.

Why not? Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have breezed through this training camp without injury and they appear to be as dominant as they were when last season ended. Now add Jones, who is in his second season since undergoing knee reconstruction, and Jones appears to have regained the quickness he had in the summer of 2006 when bad luck befell him again.

"Between last year and this year, it's like night and day," Jones said.

With Taylor, Jones-Drew and Jones, the Jaguars have a trio of runners of talent and diversity that represent the strength of the team. The game's second-best rushing attack last season may be on its way to becoming the best in the league this year.

"I know we can," Jones said. "We know teams are going to load the box," he added.

Some things never change.

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