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OL Jags' greatest strength?


The honor would officially belong to Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, but the guys up front who blocked for the two Jaguars running backs this season would share equally in the satisfaction of becoming the fifth team in NFL history to have two 1,000-yard rushers.

Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris were the first backfield combination to accomplish the feat, when Csonka rushed for 1,117 yards and Morris for exactly 1,000 in 1972. Four years later, Pittsburgh's Franco Harris (1,128) and Rocky Bleier (1,036) did it. Remember, of course, those four rushers were playing in 14-game seasons.

In 1985, long after the NFL had gone to 16 games a year, Cleveland's Kevin Mack (1,104) and Earnest Byner (1,002) came along. Then, there were none, until this year.

Atlanta's Warrick Dunn, who is currently at 1,082 yards rushing, and Michael Vick at 1,022 are in the record books, though their situation is a little different. Vick, of course, is a quarterback, which means that most of his yards rushing have been the result of having scrambled out of pass formation. Football purists might even discount Dunn-Vick; certainly offensive line purists would.

There would be nothing cheap about the Jaguars' claim, however, should Jones-Drew rush for 105 yards this Sunday in Kansas City. That's what the rookie needs to reach the 1,000-yard mark and join Taylor, currently at 1,120 yards.

The Jaguars offensive line is having a franchise season. The Jaguars have rushed for a franchise-record 2,428 yards through 15 games, and should the Jaguars not allow a sack on Sunday, they would set a team mark for fewest sacks allowed in a season, 27.

"It says something about your line and your running backs," left tackle Khalif Barnes said. "I think we were probably the biggest question on the team."

That was the general perception back in the preseason. Fans and media thought the offensive line was the team's weakest link. Little did they know that it would become the team's greatest strength.

"It's kind of bittersweet," Barnes said of the 2006 season. "We've had some good games running the ball, but I'm also sour about it because we'll probably be sitting at home (for the playoffs). I'm going to feel disappointed."

In '06, though it will likely end in disappointment, the Jaguars made major strides and achieved gaudy rankings. Chief among their accomplishments is their current number two rush-offense ranking. Atlanta is number one at 2,780 yards, which means the Jaguars can't vault into the top spot, but the Jaguars offensive linemen will always point to Vick's run-out-of-pass-formation yardage.

"He's 105 away," guard Vince Manuwai said of Jones-Drew. "That's kind of our goal right now."

Manuwai is one of the team's big gainers in '06. He began training camp in a battle to hold his left guard spot. In his restricted free agency year, Manuwai responded with a dominant performance that caused the Jaguars to sign their 2003 third-round pick to a five-year contract extension.

"We've been together, except for Khalif, for four years," Manuwai said of the offensive line. "We're durable."

In those four years, Manuwai and right guard Chris Naeole have missed only one game each. Center Brad Meester missed the final four games of last season with a torn biceps. Right tackle Mo Williams hasn't missed a game and Barnes, since becoming a starter in the fifth game of his rookie season in '05, has missed only one game.

"I feel the future is real bright. Hopefully, we can keep the bulk of this team together for the next 3-4 years. I'm real excited for the future," Barnes said.

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