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Time to return to roots


Somewhere between the end of last season and now, the Jaguars lost the identity of their offense. The tough, run-the-ball offense that established the foundation of its future in the second half of last season has gone soft.

"I'm not pleased with the lack of balance. I'll look to seek more balance in our offense. For us to be the kind of team we want to be, we have to have better balance," coach Jack Del Rio told reporters following Sunday's 20-6 loss at Reliant Stadium.

Del Rio's comments were unsolicited. He volunteered them to reporters, much as an angry father might say of a son who has moved off center. Del Rio was making an issue of a weekly irritant that has now become a full-blown pain in the ball bag.

You know all those less-than-20-carries-a-game games by Fred Taylor in the first half of this season? Well, the head coach must not have liked them, either.

Against the Texans on Sunday, the stats hit the fan, so to speak. Less than 20 carries? How about 12 by the whole team? Two of them were by quarterback Byron Leftwich.

Taylor sustained a hip pointer early in the second quarter. It tightened up on him as the game wore on and he was unable to return to action, finishing the game with just three carries for a mere nine yards. But it's not as though somebody else got the totes.

LaBrandon Toefield, Taylor's replacement, got just five carries and gained 22 yards. Rookie Greg Jones got two rushes for three yards.

The final rushing results showed the Jaguars having gained 39 yards on 12 carries. Ouch! What happened to the team that pounded the ball down the throats of its opponents in the second half of last season? What happened to the team whose star running back rushed for 989 yards in the final eight games of last season?

These Jaguars are 5-3 and in first place at the halfway point of this season, which is a whole lot better than the 1-7 they posted in the first of last season, but do you think Del Rio would like to have the 2003 team's muscle?

You bet he would.

It is at the heart of Del Rio's philosophy of football; be physical, knock the other guy off the ball, wear him down. Remember "Big Boy" football? Well, most likely, Del Rio is going to re-introduce his team to it during its bye week.

And it goes to what's happening on defense, too. When you don't run the ball, you tend to get soft on defense, too. Is it any coincidence that at the same time the Jaguars running game has fallen into the bottom of the league's rankings, the defense is also in decline?

"I don't think we tackled real crisp today. You can't play good defense if you don't tackle well," Del Rio said.

It's not likely Del Rio is going to use the bye week to whip his team on the practice field. This is professional football; punishment accomplishes nothing. This is a time to heal wounds.

But Del Rio will almost certainly announce a re-dedication to the physical elements of the game. At some point this week he will meet with his team and present the facts of this team's fall from the ranks of the physical. He will explain that "Big Boy" football is about to re-commence.

When the season resumes for the Jaguars on Nov. 14 against the Detroit Lions, expect the less-than-20-carries phenomenon to become a thing of the past. Expect the Jaguars to get back to their roots. Expect them to run the ball.

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