Jaguars Running Game: How Montell Owens Made the Most of Jones-Drew's Injury

Jon Shumake@@JonShu89Contributor IIIDecember 26, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 23:  Montell Owens #24 of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushes during a game against the New England Patriots at EverBank Field on December 23, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Maurice Jones-Drew has been a workhorse for the Jaguars since taking over the starting running back role in 2009, but all the years of constant pounding have taken a toll on his body.

The Jaguars have run Jones-Drew into the ground during his career. He is seventh among active running backs with 1,570 career rushing attempts through Week 16, and more than 1,000 of the attempts have come since 2009.

His rushing attempts hit their peak in 2011 when he led the league with 343 rushes. Jones-Drew rarely got a break during the season; he was responsible for 70 percent of the Jaguars' rushes, which was the highest percentage in the league.

Jones-Drew was also second on the team in receptions in 2011 with 43 catches. He had the ball in his hands on almost 53 percent of the Jaguars' plays that season. Jones-Drew was the engine that kept the Jaguars offense running.

That trend continued this season; he was responsible for 76 percent of the Jaguars' rushing attempts through the first five games.

All of the touches caught up to Jones-Drew and the Jaguars, as he has been out since suffering a foot injury against Oakland in Week 7. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's season finale in Tennessee

The Jaguars' reliance on Jones-Drew, coupled with his injury, revealed a pressing need for the team: A reliable running back who can spell Jones-Drew and be a solid offensive contributor.

The Jaguars may have found that player in Montell Owens.

Owens, a seventh-year player out of Maine, has been the Jaguars' special teams ace since joining the team as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2006. He has been named to the Pro Bowl twice for his special teams play.

Owens has emerged as a solid option at running back during Jones-Drew's absence. 

He got his first chance to rush the ball in 2012 after oft-injured running back Rashad Jennings suffered a concussion in the Jaguars' Week 13 game in Buffalo. Owens has not looked back since.

Owens is averaging five yards per carry. He rushed for 91 yards in the Jaguars' Week 14 loss to the Jets, which was the highest total for a Jaguars running back since Jones-Drew rushed for 177 yards against the Colts in Week 3.

His 32-yard touchdown run against the Jets proved he has the ability to find the hole in the defense and make them pay with breakaway speed.

Owens has also proven to be a receiving threat out of the backfield. He has eight receptions for 113 yards, including a 53-yard catch-and-run against the Patriots in Week 16. Owens is a dangerous threat who can make plays wherever he is lined up.

Owens' emergence will only help him and the Jaguars moving forward. The Jaguars have two running backs, Jalen Parmalee and Jennings, who are set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Owens' strong play this season makes resigning Parmalee and Jennings lower on the offseason priority list as the team would be in good shape in the future with Owens as the backup running back.

Although he will be 29 years old entering the 2013 season, he still has fresh legs. Owens had only 14 career rushing attempts entering the 2012 season. Even though he is older than Jones-Drew, Owens has not taken the abuse Jones-Drew has. Owens should be able to be productive later in his career, which would give the Jaguars an opportunity to sit Jones-Drew when needed.

Owens is playing great, and has proven himself to be worthy of being the No. 2 running back. He should see more playing time and touches even when Jones-Drew is healthy; his presence will benefit both the Jaguars and Jones-Drew in the long run.