Maurice Jones-Drew's foot injury on Sunday put even more of a damper on a depressing Jacksonville Jaguars season. With the ailment likely to keep the star running back out for an extended period, it seems the Jags are destined for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser had some discouraging news to report about MJD's 2012 future:
MJD (foot) is probably going to be out an extended period. Mularkey says will be out Sunday. #kaguars— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) October 22, 2012
I think he meant "Jaguars" with that hashtag. Nevertheless, it's bad enough that head coach Mike Mularkey already ruled Jones-Drew out of Sunday’s game in Green Bay; it's even worse that MJD is also likely to miss an extended period of time. None of this is good news for Jags fans.
Jones-Drew was about the only hope this team had to be relevant, and even he hasn't been able to spark Jacksonville despite his best efforts. Despite leading the league in rushing last season, the Jags backup Rashad Jennings came in and played decently against the Oakland Raiders, particularly in catching the ball out of the backfield. But the fourth-year back has had significant injury issues of his own, and may have to tread without starting QB Blaine Gabbert.
Not that Gabbert has been particularly phenomenal in his second season, as the first-round pick is teetering on the fringe of “bust” territory.
The offensive mindset of new coach Mularkey has helped Gabbert play well at times, but he typically looks like a rookie in learning his second offense in as many years in the league. He was knocked out in Week 7 as well with a left shoulder injury.
Unfortunately, the offense isn't the only unit in disarray for the Jags. That top-10 defense from a year ago?
The Jaguars rank in the bottom third of the NFL in every major defensive category, and haven't been effective in stopping the run or pass. Former head coach Jack Del Rio is known for being a bright defensive guru, and it looks like he was doing a heck of a job despite frequent criticism at the end of his tenure.
A semi-competent passing game complementing all that Jones-Drew brings to the team was the only chance the Jags had of being competitive. Even when teams stack the box to take him out of the equation, MJD's combination of power, speed and low center of gravity make him almost impossible to bring down.
With every team left on the schedule still having some decent chance at the playoffs, the Jags are already in need of a historic rally to get into the conversation. That will prove impossible without Jones-Drew in the fold.
Barring a massive jump from Gabbert, Chad Henne or the entire defense, this Jags team may have trouble winning another game without its franchise player in the backfield. The situation becomes even more complicated if the team can't ink Jones-Drew to an extension this summer.
Big changes will be on the way in Jacksonville this offseason once again. At least the team will have the No. 1 pick as an asset to get the rebuilding project under way.