Popular opinion is that tight end Kyle Brady is the missing link in the Jaguars running game, and that Brady's return to the lineup this Sunday will initiate a rush of success by Fred Taylor. Brady laughed at that notion, but his coach didn't.
"That's hilarious. When I was in there, (the fans) wanted me out. Now they all want me in there," Brady said.
Well, whatever the case, something has definitely been missing from the Jaguars running game through the first five weeks of the season. An outfit that was eighth-best in the league last year is currently 26th. A running back who gained 989 yards in the second half of last season currently has only 328 yards and 82 carries to show for his efforts.
Yuk! That's only 65.6 yards and 16.4 carries per game for a running back who averaged 123.6 yards and 24.9 carries per game in the second half of last season. All right, what's the problem?
"During that streak last year, there were five or six plays we were going to run and they knew we were going to run them, but it didn't matter. Last year we had that 'family of plays.' Teams defensed against them and other things opened up," Brady said.
So far this season the Jaguars have established no such "family of plays." The Jaguars are clearly lacking in the way of a "bread and butter" regimen. Why?
"Some of our 'bread and butter' plays from last year were disrupted by not having Kyle," coach Jack Del Rio said. "Certainly we hope to have some of that with Kyle's presence."
Brady will be in the lineup this Sunday against the 1-3 Kansas City Chiefs. Brady will wear a bulky protection device on his injured right hand, which underwent surgery prior to the start of the season and has resulted in his absence for the first five games. Popular opinion is that Brady is an accomplished blocker and his absence at tight end has had an adverse effect on the Jaguars running game.
More than ever, the Jaguars need Taylor and the running game to come to life. The Chiefs are 26th in the league against the run, a stat that invites teams to pound the ball, control time of possession and, in the process, keep the Chiefs' explosive offense on the sideline.
In fact, that strategy could be expanded to include another major point of emphasis: score early.
Through the first 21 games of the new era in Jaguars football, the Jaguars have not scored a touchdown on their opening possession of the game. The Jaguars have only scored four first-quarter touchdowns in that span of games and they haven't scored a point in the first quarter of any game this season.
"That's news to me," quarterback Byron Leftwich said of the no-touchdown-in-21-games stat. "We will and have to get better. We have to make other teams play from behind.
"You don't want to lose three straight. We want to come out of this thing 4-2," Leftwich added of this Sunday's game, which will lead the Jaguars to a showdown in Indianapolis two Sundays from now.
Leftwich's 81.1 passer rating is the middle of the AFC quarterback rankings. His passing yardage has shot up the last two weeks, to fourth-best in the AFC, but throwing for more yards has paralleled losing. Leftwich's worst passing-yardage games have resulted in wins; his best passing-yardage games have resulted in losses.
Clearly, the Jaguars remain a team that must win with a strong defense, a ball-control running game and a mistake-free passing attack.
"Once we start running the ball it'll open up things in the passing game," wide receiver Jimmy Smith said.
Maybe Brady is the missing link.
In other news, the Jaguars announced on Friday that they have put defensive end Lionel Barnes on the injured reserve list with a shoulder injury, and have replaced him on the active roster by signing defensive end Elton Patterson off the Bengals' practice squad. Patterson, 6-2, 271, was a seventh-round draft choice in 2003. He recorded 30.5 sacks at the University of Central Florida.
The Jaguars also updated their injury report by downgrading tight end George Wrighster from "probable" to "doubtful" with a back injury, by upgrading safety Donovin Darius from "questionable" to "probable" with an ankle sprain, and by adding defensive tackle Willie Blade as "questionable" with a back injury.