Jaguars running backs coach Earnest Byner had plenty of success in his 14-year NFL playing career, rushing for 8,261 yards and 56 touchdowns while being named to two Pro Bowls. Byner's success has followed him into coaching.
In the eight years Byner has been coaching, a Byner-coached running back has finished among the NFL's top 10 rushers seven times. Prior to joining the Jaguars in 2010, Byner spent four seasons with the Washington Redskins from 2004-07 and two seasons with the Tennessee Titans from 2008-09. Titans running back Chris Johnson won the NFL rushing title in 2009 with 2,006 yards and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew holds the NFL lead with 1,334 yards after 14 games in 2011.
* LEADING RUNNING BACKS UNDER EARNEST BYNER*
*YEAR PLAYER YARDS NFL RANK *
2004 Clinton Portis 1,315 8th
2005 Clinton Portis 1,516 4th
2006 Ladell Betts 1,154 13th
2007 Clinton Portis 1,262 6th
2008 Chris Johnson 1,228 8th
2009 Chris Johnson 2,006 1st
2010 Maurice Jones-Drew 1,324 5th
2011 Maurice Jones-Drew 1,334 1st (through 14 games)
No plans of slowing down
Maurice Jones-Drew is on pace to have the most productive season of his six-year NFL career. Jones-Drew enters Saturday's game with an NFL-high 1,334 rushing yards, 57 yards behind his career-high 1,391 yards in 2009. He leads the NFL in rushes (294) and offensive touches (330) while he ranks second in rushes of 10-plus yards (34) and first downs (80).
Jones-Drew has accounted for 46.9 percent of the Jaguars offense through 14 games, the highest percentage in the NFL. In 10 of 14 games, he has accounted for at least 40 percent of the club's offense, and at least 50 percent in seven games.
"He's a beautiful dude. Very, very exciting to be able to coach him," Jaguars running backs coach Earnest Byner said. "He's very smart and also very hungry for what we talk about in our room. As you all know, you can tell motivation is not an issue with MoJo. He's one of the tops as far as that is concerned. He wants the absolute best for this team, and I think that's the way it ought to be from a leadership perspective because we've got to have that from guys that are in their positions. He is driven to make this team be what it needs to be for us to continue our progress."
In addition to his rushing yards, Jones-Drew ranks second in the NFL with 1,683 yards from scrimmage and has averaged 150.7 yards from scrimmage in the last four games. He has three receiving touchdowns in the last three games.
It's no secret that injuries have played a major role in the Jaguars season and those injuries have translated into new players making their way into the locker room several times a week. The Jaguars have 16 players who weren't on the club's roster for Kickoff Weekend for the Jaguars, win over Tennessee.
The Jaguars lead the NFL with 22 players on injured reserve, including four starters, heading into week 16. Of the Jaguars' 53 roster players, 27 are new to the team. The Jaguars have made 212 roster transactions since July 27 including 51 transactions in a five-day period (July 27-31) after the lockout ended.
Here are additional notes on the roster overhaul:
- Seventy-two players have seen action for the Jaguars in 14 games. In 2010, 66 different players played in at least one game for the Jaguars.
- Eight players have been signed to the active roster off the practice squad of the Jaguars or another team.
- Only six of the 22 current starters for the Jaguars have been with the club for more than three consecutive seasons (Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri, Marcedes Lewis, Greg Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Daryl Smith). Defensively, only five of the 11 players made starts for the club in 2010 (Tyson Alualu, Terrance Knighton, Jeremy Mincey, Daryl Smith, Russell Allen). Of the 11 starters on defense, only Smith has been with the club for more than three consecutive seasons.
- Forty-six of the 53 players were acquired in the last three seasons, with 36 in the last two seasons.
- Eighteen players played in their first NFL game in 2011 including 12 rookies. Five rookies (QB Blaine Gabbert, OT Cameron Bradfield, G/C Will Rackley, CB Kevin Rutland, S Chris Prosinski) have made starts for the club and 12 rookies have seen action.
No excuses on defense
Despite a rash of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the Jaguars continue to rank among the NFL's elite defenses in 2011. The Jaguars rank fourth in the NFL in total defense (307.4) heading into Saturday's game. Only five players have started all 14 games for the Jaguars on defense – Tyson Alualu, Dawan Landry, Jeremy Mincey, Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith.
The Jaguars have used 12 different starting lineups on defense including seven different lineups in the first eight games and five in the last six. Eight of the 22 players on injured reserve have made starts for the club the last two seasons on defense.
Back to division play
The Jaguars conclude the regular season with back-to-back division games beginning on Saturday, as they visit the Tennessee Titans. The Jaguars host Indianapolis on January 1 in the season finale.
In 2010 the NFL placed an emphasis on scheduling divisional games late in the year and this was accomplished again this season. For the second consecutive season, the Jaguars had only two division games in the first half. Saturday will be the fourth game in team history on Christmas Eve. The Jaguars are 2-2 in division play with wins against Tennessee and at Indianapolis. The division champion Texans, who swept the season series with the Jaguars, are 4-0 in division play and the only team with more division wins than the Jaguars.
First time for everything
Five Jaguars scored their first career touchdown in the last four games. Four of the five touchdowns were non-offensive scores.
- On the Texans' second play from scrimmage on Nov. 27 Arian Foster fumbled when hit by Paul Posluszny, and Ashton Youboty scooped the ball and scored from 38 yards out. It was Youboty's first start in only his second game with the Jaguars.
- First-year tight end Colin Cloherty, playing his first game as a Jaguar and his fourth in the NFL, scooped up a fumble by Buccaneers punt returner Preston Parker in the second quarter on Dec. 11 and raced eight yards to the end zone for his first career touchdown. Cloherty was signed to the Jaguars' 53-man roster on Dec. 9 after spending three weeks on the club's practice squad.
- Defensive tackle Nate Collins recovered a Josh Freeman fumble in the end zone in the second quarter against Tampa Bay for his first career touchdown. Collins became only the second defensive lineman in team history to score a touchdown during the regular season, joining Tony Brackens who had a 16-yard interception return at Baltimore on November 28, 1999.
- Tight end Zach Potter scooped up a blocked punt last Thursday at Atlanta and ran 46 yards for his first career score. It was tied for the second-longest blocked punt return for a score in the NFL since 1970. It was the Jaguars' first blocked punt returned for a touchdown since Nov. 1, 1998 at Baltimore (Alvis Whitted, 24 yards).
- First-year wide receiver Chastin West scored his first career touchdown on a 16-yard reception from Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter at Atlanta. West entered the game with eight career receptions for 88 yards.
The Jaguars have four non-offensive touchdowns in 2011, tied for the second-most in franchise history (6, 1999; 4, 1998 and 2007) and tied for the eighth-most in the NFL in 2011. All four touchdowns have come in the last four games. The Jaguars have two fumble recoveries on special teams for scores in the last two games.
Smith closes in on another record
Daryl Smith already owns the franchise record for career tackles with 1,060 and ranks second in 2011 with 146 tackles. He is tied for the single-season franchise record with 14 tackles for loss in 14 games. Tony Brackens also had 14 tackles for loss in 1997.
Smith has surpassed 100 tackles in seven straight seasons and is four tackles shy of 150-plus tackles in three straight seasons.