Fred Taylor would like for this Sunday's game to be a showdown between he and the Ravens' Jamal Lewis for the NFL rushing lead. But it won't be, unless Taylor manages to rush for 600 yards against the Ravens.
Lewis leads the NFL in rushing with 977 yards just seven games into the season. With a seventh-consecutive 100-yard game this Sunday, Lewis would be on pace to break Eric Dickerson's all-time NFL single-season rushing record, which Dickerson set at 2,105 yards in 1984.
It's not that Taylor is having a bad season, it's just that his 505 yards, 4.1 yards-per-carry average, 42-yard long run and two touchdowns pale in comparison to Lewis' 977, 5.9, 82 and six numbers. Oh, yeah, there's another comparison where Taylor falls significantly short: 124 carries to Lewis' 166.
"I'd like to have it more," Taylor confessed. "Yeah, I'd like to have it more. Am I going to cry about it? I've never been like that," he added.
Taylor's rushing attempts have been on a roller-coaster ride this season: He had 22 rushes in the season-opener, then 14, 17, 19, 27, 16 and, most recently, nine. That's an average of fewer than 18 carries a game, and critics would say that's not the workload of a feature back. By comparison, Lewis is averaging just under 24 carries a game.
So maybe it'll change for Taylor this Sunday in Baltimore. Maybe this is the Sunday he breaks back into the mid-20s, as he was in the Jaguars' lone win of the season, against the Chargers.
Having a lead is certainly one of the keys to getting a lot of carries. Teams playing catch-up, as the Jaguars have in four of their seven games, have a tendency to abandon the running game. Unless you play for the Ravens. They never abandon the run.
Ravens coach Brian Billick has cast his lot this season with rookie quarterback Kyle Boller, and in Billick's efforts to protect his team from the kind of mistakes and turnovers that can be expected of a rookie quarterback, Billick has leaned especially hard on Lewis and the running game.
"Our perfect profile would be a 35-run, 25-throw game. I think a lot of coaches would tell you that," Billick said.
The Ravens are, in fact, just shy of their "perfect profile." They're averaging 34 runs and 26 passes a game. Ironically, the Jaguars have executed the "imperfect profile;" 35 passes and 25 runs a game.
Billick is likely to order a steady diet of Lewis and the running game this Sunday against the Jaguars, to further protect Boller, and that may lure the Jaguars into a Taylor vs. Lewis confrontation.
"I'm not having a good year because I haven't been able to take pressure off guys around me. My mentality is that every time I get it I try to score; do something with it," said Taylor, for whom it was once predicted he would challenge the 2,000-yard mark. But this year, Taylor is on pace for slightly more than 1,150 yards rushing.
"There's a lot left (of this season). Each guy needs to think outside the box. It's deeper than getting a win. You want to make yourself better because you don't know if you're going to outlast your coaches or your coaches are going to outlast you. You need to be the best pro you can be," Taylor added.
And it would sure help the Jaguars' cause if Taylor is the best he can be this Sunday.