Jones-Drew will replace Taylor in Jags' lineup

Updated: December 22, 2006, 5:12 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who need a victory Sunday to stay in the thick of the AFC wild-card race, will face the New England Patriots without leading rusher Fred Taylor.

The nine-year veteran tailback was downgraded from questionable to out on Friday because of a hamstring injury that plagued him the last two games and kept him out of practice this week. Rookie tailback Maurice Jones-Drew, who has played superbly in providing the Jaguars a dynamic complement to Taylor, will make his first regular-season start.

Fourth-year veteran LaBrandon Toefield, who has logged only nine carries for 20 yards this season, will have his role expanded for the key AFC game.

In large part because of the combination of Taylor and Jones-Drew, the Jaguars statistically rank as the NFL's second-best rushing offense, behind only Atlanta. Jacksonville is averaging 163.1 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry.

Taylor initially injured his right hamstring in the Jaguars' lopsided victory over Indianapolis on Dec. 10, a game in which Jacksonville amassed 375 rushing yards. Taylor did not play the second half of that game. He started last week's contest at Tennessee but aggravated the hamstring strain on only his second carry of the game, a 35-yard run in the first quarter. So in the last six quarters, Taylor has only two carries.

Various examinations of the hamstring this week showed no tearing or significant bleeding, but there is swelling and discomfort, and Taylor will require rest and treatment if he is to be available for the season finale at Kansas City on New Year's Eve.

The leading rusher in franchise history, Taylor has carried 224 times for 1,120 yards and five touchdowns this season. The 1,000-yard performance is the sixth of his career.

A second-round draft choice, the mighty-mite Jones-Drew, who stands barely 5-foot-8, has 764 yards and 10 touchdowns on 135 rushes. He has also caught 36 passes for 379 yards and two scores, and averaged 27.6 yards and scored one touchdown on 26 kickoff returns. The versatile tailback and former UCLA star is a candidate for offensive rookie of the year honors.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.