NFL: Jaguars RB Jones-Drew’s lack of height could be problem for Jets’ defense
By J.P. Pelzman
The Record (Hackensack N.J.)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Rex Ryan would like to clear up one misconception about Jacksonville’s prolific 5-foot-7 running back, Maurice Jones-Drew.
“He’s short. He’s not small,” the Jets’ coach said of the 208-pounder.
“That’s a big man, a big, powerful man. He’s low to the ground (and) has great balance. When you think he’s down, he’s still up. We’ve got to make sure we get him on the ground. We’ve got to have more than one guy on him.”
Jones-Drew is sixth in the AFC in rushing with 737 yards, averaging 5.1 yards a carry. He leads the NFL with 11 touchdowns, all rushing. He was limited in practice Thursday with a knee problem, but practiced full Friday.
“He’s just a tough guy,” Ryan said Friday. “He’s a bowling ball with football pads on.”
“He’s every bit as advertised,” Jets’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said Thursday. “He’s a special back. ... It’s easy to say, that you make sure you set the edges on him ... and make sure the second and third guy in (to make the tackle) never relax around the pile.”
Jones-Drew’s lack of height can present problems for taller defenders.
“You’ve got to bend” if you’re taller, Pettine said. “It is different for those guys. It’s not like they’re taking on the taller backs like Chris Johnson or Larry Johnson (who are) up over 6 feet. It’s something that we’re going to have to deal with.”
So the Jets have used 5-9 Danny Woodhead, a prolific college rusher at Division II Chadron (Neb.) State, to imitate Jones-Drew on the scout team. Pettine hopes that will help his players get used to tackling someone with such a low center of gravity.
“We’re fortunate to have a guy like Danny Woodhead in practice that can simulate that,” Pettine said. “He’s a versatile enough athlete that he can be the Wes Welker or (Julian) Edelman type in Week 2 (before the New England game) and then change hats and give us a legit look at tailback, at least from a height standpoint. Obviously, Jones-Drew is much more powerful, lower-body wise.”
“I don’t know if you can stop him, you’ve just got to contain him,” defensive end Shaun Ellis said. “He’s a great back. He causes a lot of problems for the defense. He’ll cut that run and he can go anywhere.
“If the play is designed to go right, he can go left. He’s very smart. You have to gang-tackle him. He has a low center of gravity and keeps his feet moving. It’s a tough challenge and I think we’re up for the challenge. We’ll have to just rally to him and everyone just swarm-tackles him.”
The first time the Jets faced Miami’s Wildcat formation last month, they had difficulty fighting off blocks and making sure tackles. But they cleaned up those issues the second time and need to play that way against Jones-Drew.
BRIEFS: Reserve linebacker Vernon Gholston (hamstring) isn’t expected to play. Backup wide receiver Brad Smith and cornerback Lito Sheppard, both recovering from quadriceps injuries, are expected to play. The Jets want to be judicious with Sheppard’s amount of plays so he doesn’t suffer a setback.