Commentary

Holt, Jones-Drew ready to lead Jags

Originally Published: August 21, 2009
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Maybe it's the obscurity of being in one of the NFL's smallest markets that makes a pair of Jaguars, Maurice Jones-Drew and Torry Holt, walk and talk with a dare-me style that is unshakable in their faith.

"I don't even think people realize I'm in Jacksonville now," laughed Holt, the former Ram and one of the most prolific receivers of his generation. "My goals haven't changed ... 90 catches, 1,300 yards, 10-plus touchdowns."

Jones-Drew, the 5-foot-7 fireball running back, won't set individual goals -- the Super Bowl was the only one he mentioned -- but he won't back down from a challenge and he'll throw down a few, too.

"[Chad] Ochocinco, so he kicked an [extra point]?" said Jones-Drew. "I'll challenge him at anything. I can take him in jacks, basketball, track, name it. I'm way faster than him."

It gets better.

"I think I might be able to beat Usain [Bolt] in the 40 if they let me train for it," said Jones-Drew. "I'm going to put this out there -- if anybody thinks they're faster than me in the 40, please contact the Jaguars and next offseason, give me a month off and a month to train. Bolt? If he wants some, he can get it."

He was only half-joking, but he wasn't smiling. The most appropriate aspect of his boast was his acknowledgement that after the 2009 season, Jones-Drew will need a month off. Fred Taylor is gone and he is the man.

"I know our offense is going to revolve around MJD and that's the way it should be," said Holt. "He can do this."

In fact, it is Holt's former Rams teammate, Marshall Faulk, whom Jones-Drew uses as a model when he speaks of his expectations for 2009.

"The game has evolved a little bit, thanks to Marshall Faulk , and Brian Westbrook and even Brian Mitchell with the Redskins," said Jones-Drew. "The position [running back] is more about touches now than carries. Guys may not get those 330 to 400 carries, but I may get 330 to 350 touches. It's about catching ball, too, being versatile out of the backfield, get out in space and make plays. That's what we're doing here."

Faulk (now retired) and Westbrook have been 2,000-yard weapons in combined rushing and receiving. That's one reason why Jones-Drew has been encouraging people to select him No. 1 in their fantasy drafts. Really, MJD over Adrian Peterson?

"People hit me on Twitter and ask, 'Should I pick you?' and, of course, I say yes," said Jones-Drew. "I'm in two fantasy drafts and there's an automatic rule is I get myself in the first round."

The fantasy question was posed to Holt.

"AP," he said, referring to the Vikings star.

Here's what I learned visiting the Jaguars:

  • With 40 new players and a younger team, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio had a much more demanding, rigorous training camp. "When you have that much turnover, you have to reinstall everything all over again," said Jones-Drew.
  • Team chemistry, character and camaraderie were the theme of the offseason and training camp after a 5-11 season. Thus, every Jaguars player left his razor at home and is sporting a beard. "Look, chemistry is fighting adversity together and not letting it drag you down," said Jones-Drew. "If you win, distractions are swept under the rug. If you lose, they're brought out into the light."

  • Even though Holt's receiving numbers dropped dramatically last year in St. Louis (64 catches, 796 yards, three TDs), he has tremendous confidence that his skills have not significantly eroded. Asked if he was a 10 in his prime, how he would rate himself at age 33 in his 11th year, Holt said, "I'd say a 9."

  • Factoid that may surprise you: Since the Jaguars played their first season in 1995, they are sixth in the AFC and tied for ninth in the NFL for best record, better than teams like the Cowboys, Giants, Redskins and Dolphins, just to name a few.

    Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.