How Will Jaguars Use Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings vs Vikings?

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How Will Jaguars Use Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings vs Vikings?
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Maurice Jones-Drew will see a limited number of opportunities in Week 1, so we can't expect much from 2011's leading rusher.

And according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):

Maurice Jones-Drew will begin the season much like he did his NFL career: a backup and third-down running back.

Jacksonville Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said Monday that Jones-Drew will rotate in on third-down plays Sunday at Minnesota. The NFL's leading rusher in 2011 also will "get a series" in place of starter Rashad Jennings, Mularkey added.

To kickoff the 2012 NFL season the Jacksonville Jaguars travel up north and face the Minnesota Vikings.

Last season Minnesota had a decent run defense, however, the Vikings were quite vulnerable against the pass. In allowing less than four yards per carry a year ago, though, Jared Allen and Co. are certainly capable of shutting down the run and applying a great amount of quarterback pressure.

Well, let's see how the Jaguars can utilize Jones-Drew along with Rashad Jennings to get the opening victory.

 

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Maurice Jones-Drew

With an expected limited number of carries Maurice Jones-Drew can't afford to be ineffective.

Although, the Vikings will key on him from being a holdout and playing more zone in passing situations allows for better isolation. Jacksonville's passing game—despite how much it has improved—won't be a factor unless MJD makes an impact.

The play-action pass won't be as easy to set up either, because Minnesota's front wall of defense is so consistent at applying pressure. Therefore, slamming between the tackles with Jones-Drew and then keeping him in the backfield to pass protect is vital.

Getting him even minimal production up the gut will force the Minnesota front seven to honor that aspect of the Jags' attack. Doing so buys Blaine Gabbert more time when dropping back and avoiding play-action allows MJD to immediately pick up any blitz or help double-team a rusher.

Jones-Drew's contributions are more about the potential threat, because he still is an elite player. So long as Jacksonville can cause Minnesota to respect his presence in the backfield, MJD will have done more than required.


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Rashad Jennings

As the starter, Rashad Jennings is the guy who must make play-action relevant.

The Jaguars must always hit the Vikings between the tackles and get Minnesota's linebacker to react first to the run. Presenting receiving targets capable of beating single coverage, using play-action off Jennings to freeze the 'backers and open up the intermediate level creates favorable mismatches.

Because he's a rookie, Justin Blackmon is still developing.

In turn, Jacksonville can't put him against man coverage while getting double-coverage from a zoning linebacker or rolled down safety. If so, the rest of Minnesota's defense can get more aggressive with press coverage and blitzing to really frustrate Gabbert.

Well, Jennings is the key here because along with play-action he must be reliable as a checkdown target. Any time Blackmon or Laurent Robinson is blanketed, Gabbert will more than likely be looking for Jennings.

The stronger he can influence Minnesota to rely on man coverage, the better off Jacksonville will be with play-action. It's all about getting Gabbert more time when surveying the field, because the Jaguars passing game has to improve in 2012.

If not, then 2013 will be another long and disappointing campaign.

 

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Best-Case Scenario

The two-back set with Jones-Drew and Jennings is the best look Jacksonville can present to Minnesota.

Both backs are dual-threats which simply opens the playbook even more.

We're talking double-screens, shovel passes, swing pass to either side, fake tosses and the Wildcat. Now yes, all of this is a little far-fetched as well, but it's just the real opportunity Jacksonville needs to keep any kind of pressure off Gabbert.

Not to mention hitting MJD or Jennings on a swing pass against a linebacker in the open field is an advantage for Jacksonville. Any kind of short-yard situation would be intriguing with the two splitting the backfield, because this forces Minnesota to think more pre-snap and the linebackers to cover more ground during the play.

The last thing the Jaguars want to do is become predictable. And having both in the backfield creates more problems for Minnesota's front seven. Provided that the receiving corps prove consistent against man coverage, Gabbert will have a field day.

And the ultimate result is Jacksonville being 1-0.

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