And here’s what Nwaneri says:
Not that they would rather do this than win, and not that individual ever means more than team, but yes, the offensive line wants Jones-Drew to win the NFL rushing title. Absolutely. Positively.
They want it for Jones-Drew. They want it for the Jaguars.
And they also want it for themselves.
“There’s a lot of pride involved in that for an offensive lineman,” Nwaneri said Thursday as the Jaguars (3-9) prepared to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) at EverBank Field in downtown Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
“That kind of shows the work you’ve been putting in in the running game, and the lanes you create for your running back. Obviously we have a great running back, and he does a lot of special things, but that’s big for lineman. We take a lot of pride in that.”
Jones-Drew, a Pro Bowl selection the past two years, this season has been one of the NFL’s most consistently productive running backs.
A sixth-year veteran, Jones-Drew has rushed for at least 84 yards in 11 of 12 games, and he has had six games of 97 yards or more. This past week, he rushed for 97 yards on 20 carries against San Diego, moving into the NFL rushing lead with 1,137 yards and five touchdowns.
“It’s impressive any play, any year with him, just the way he goes about his business,” Jaguars interim head coach Mel Tucker said. “He is a relentless competitor and regardless of the circumstances he’s going to give you everything he has, and that’s a lot. It’s not just that he’s determined, it’s not just that he’s tough, but he’s got talent. He’s got tremendous talent, tremendous ability. He can win one-on-one on a consistent basis week in and week out and so that makes him a special player.”
Jones-Drew has said often in recent weeks that the rushing title means little to him, primarily because of the Jaguars’ record.
“Ultimately if we’re not winning we’re not happy,” Jaguars running backs coach Earnest Byner said. “Nobody is happy if we’re not winning. Whether you’re leading the league in rushing or whether you’re down here at the bottom of the league in rushing, if you’re not winning you’re not happy.
“We want to win and if a byproduct of that is him getting the rushing title, then great. But we need to get this thing going in such a way that we can go into the offseason feeling good about ourselves team-wise. And I think that’s the most important aspect.”
Jones-Drew has produced this season while often running against eight- or nine-man fronts, something Tucker said isn’t surprising considering Jones-Drew’s nature.
“He knows what type of environment he’s going to be in week in and week out relative to the type of defenses that he’s going to see,” Tucker said. “And eight-man fronts, nine-man fronts whatever it is, he knows what’s going to be and he steps up to the challenge each and every time.”
And though Jones-Drew and Tucker each downplay the significance of a rushing title, the guys blocking for Jones-Drew take a different approach.
“It’d be just as good for the offensive linemen as it would be for Mojo,” right tackle
“I haven’t heard anyone in the locker room talking about it, but then game time comes around, we have a great back, so it’s something that happens naturally.”
Said Nwaneri, “We have our goals set as a line. One of them is to be a Top 5 rushing team in the league and to get Maurice ‘X’ amount of yards every game. To have him take first place in the lead for the rushing title, that makes us really proud.”
*Tucker said he’s not worried about how rookie quarterback
*Tucker said he believes Gabbert continues to give the Jaguars the best chance to win, and that that remains the reason to start Gabbert. “I feel good (about Gabbert) this week,” Tucker said. “I felt good last week. I think he gives us a great chance. I see that he can make the plays we need him to make. I see he’s becoming more consistent. I see we have to play better around him and I think we have to do a much better job on defense, but we have to play a complimentary game.”
*Tucker on the week following a loss in his first game as interim coach: “I’m always going to be upbeat and positive and looking forward to the next opportunity. That’s not the first time that I’ve been a part of a team that’s taken the field and it hasn’t turned out the way you wanted. That’s part of the game. It’s how you come back, and my experience has been that if you come back with a positive attitude, you evaluate the things that you did well and things you didn’t do well and look to correct those things and build upon the positives, that gives you the best chance for the next opportunity, and that’s what we have to do. Time stops for no one. We’ve got to move on.”
*Tucker said he’s not yet sure if wide receiver
*Tucker said a decision will be made at the end of the week on activating running back