When the Oakland Raiders host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the defense will have their hands full against running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The plan will be to limit Jones-Drew and the rushing attack. If the Raiders can accomplish that, they will put themselves in a position to win.
This season the Raiders have done a nice job against the run. They rank 18th in the NFL, giving up 111.8 yards per game. That number is inflated because the Miami Dolphins destroyed Oakland to the tune of 263 rushing yards in week two. Since that game, the Raiders have only allowed the Broncos the rush for more than 100 yards with 165 in week four. Last week, Oakland allowed 45 rushing yards against the Atlanta Falcons. Jacksonville is ranked 22nd in the league with just over 98 yards per game.
Jones-Drew has accounted for 41 percent of the Jaguars offense this season, despite the fact he has only rushed for over 100 yards once. He posted huge numbers against the Indianapolis Colts in week three, rushing for 177 yards on 28 carries in the team's lone win of the season. The blueprint to beat the Jaguars is slowing down their featured back and keeping him out of the endzone. The last time Jones-Drew faced the Raiders in 2010, he rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ll tell you, they can run the football,” Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “Jones-Drew is a very good player. Coming from the Bay Area, and De La Salle High School, we’ve known of him for a very long time. He’s a very good player. He’s really hard to tackle. He keeps his pads down, and he moves forward. He can catch and he can run.”
The game plan for the Raiders will be to force second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert to beat them. Jacksonville ranks last in the NFL in passing yards at a pedestrian 142.8 yards per game. Gabbert is only completing 54.8 percent of his passes and is only averaging 5.4 yards per completion. For the season, he has 796 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions. He only time he has thrown for over 200 yards this season is in an overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Despite middle linebacker Rolando McClain leaving the field in the Raiders nickle package, he will see more time against Jacksonville. With the focus stopping the run, McClain can be very effective in that department and Oakland will need him to be this week. Outside linebackers Miles Burris and Philip Wheeler have both made tackles all over the field this year. If they play the way they are capable, it will be tough sledding for Jones-Drew.
“Rolando’s done a good job this week at practice, especially, defending their run scheme,” Tarver said. “He remembers the last time they were here, and he doesn’t want that to happen.”
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