Jaguars turn to Owens to handle running workload
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The Jacksonville Jaguars are so banged up at running back that they're turning things over to a special teams ace.
With Maurice Jones-Drew, Jalen Parmele and Rashad Jennings all injured, the Jaguars (2-10) are planning to give former fullback and fourth-team running back Montell Owens the start Sunday against the New York Jets (5-7).
Owens is a two-time Pro Bowler, earning both trips with his special teams play. He has a franchise record 118 tackles on special team. His offensive resume is much less stellar. He ran seven times for 29 yards last week at Buffalo, giving him 21 carries for 112 yards in his seven-year career.
Nonetheless, he is welcoming a bigger role Sunday.
"It's just a chance to showcase yourself in a way that you haven't been accustomed to,'' Owens said Wednesday.
Owens knows his limitations: He's not the fastest guy on the field, doesn't have the best hands, isn't the most skilled blocker. But he has become a mainstay in Jacksonville because of his versatility and durability.
Owens missed just seven games, has played fullback and running back, and lined up all over the field on just about every special teams unit.
"I just enjoy playing the game,'' he said. "It doesn't matter where I am. I'm not one of those guys that's concerned with where I'm playing or how much I'm playing. Some guys, they've been waiting to play the position that they had in high school or college. I'm just grateful for the opportunity, grateful to be part of this organization.
"Wherever that is, I'm going to put a winning effort out there.''
Jacksonville hasn't gotten many winning efforts from its running game this season. The Jaguars rank last in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 78.8 yards a game and 3.5 yards a carry. Coach Mike Mularkey's team is on pace to become the worst rushing team in franchise history.
The Jags finished with 1,600 yards on the ground in 2001.
They could be end up more than 300 yards short of that this season.
Jones-Drew's foot injury is the biggest problem. MJD injured his left foot on the first play at Oakland on Sept. 21. He stayed in for another play, but then left the game for good. He has been inactive for the last six games, and Mularkey called him "very questionable'' to play against the Jets.
Jacksonville figured it would be fine with Jennings, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009 who looked good in the offseason and the preseason.
But Jennings was a huge disappointment, failing to find holes and dropping a number of passes thrown his way. Jennings averaged just 2.8 yards a carry in place of Jones-Drew and was benched three weeks ago in favor of Parmele, a journeyman who started the season as the team's primary kickoff returner.
Making his second career start against Tennessee, Parmele suffered a significant groin injury that landed him on injured reserve. That put Jennings back in the starting role, but he sustained a concussion against the Bills and has not been cleared to practice or play.
So now it's Owens' turn.
"It's not the ideal situation, but I think you've got to make an attempt to try to keep it balanced,'' Mularkey said. "I trust Montell Owens. I think he's done well for the number of times he's had a chance to run the ball. All I heard about Montell, even when I wasn't here, was what kind of special teams player he was. And he is. He is everything I heard and maybe more.
"When he had chances to carry the ball, I thought `Wow, this guy. I knew he was a good football player, but this guy is a decent back.'''
The Jaguars promoted Richard Murphy from the practice squad and signed Jordan Todman off Minnesota's practice squad. But Owens will get most of the work Sunday - his first chance in seven seasons.
"Montell did a great job last week stepping in,'' quarterback Chad Henne said. "Ran hard, guys open up some holes for him to get some opportunities. But with a full week of practice, he's going to get most of the reps. He's going to get the flow of understanding what the defense is trying to accomplish and what we're trying to do. So it's only going to benefit him.''
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