The Jacksonville Jaguars have handed the reins over to rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert after releasing veteran David Garrard and after Luke McCown's poor performance through the first two games of the season. Luckily for Gabbert, he has some support in the form of one of the league's premier running backs, Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew is the league's second-leading rusher after Oakland's Darren McFadden with 391 yards through the first four games of the season and he's averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
The Bengals have the top-ranked defense in the NFL including the league's seventh-ranked run defense. When it comes to facing Jones-Drew, though, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis believes that he is similar to a running back that the Bengals have faced multiple times in the past, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
"He’s very similar to Ray Rice. I don’t know exactly the dimensions or who’s taller, but he’s that kind of runner. They’re guys who are quick and fast and who can make small openings become big plays. He’s a great receiver. They do a lot of things with him catching to football, similar to Ray Rice. So that’s a very good comparison."
The Bengals have only faced Jones-Drew one time, holding him to 33 yards on 10 carries and a one-yard touchdown run. However, they have faced Rice six times in the past three seasons.
In those six games the Bengals have never allowed Rice to gain more than 87 yards on the ground. He has carried the ball 95 times for 386 yards, two touchdowns and a 4.06 yards per carry average. He has caught 26 passes out of the backfield for 224 yards and one touchdown against the Bengals.
Of course Rice and Jones-Drew aren't the same guy but since they are fairly similar when it comes to their style and the way they're used we could look at how the Bengals have played against Rice and possibly get a good idea how they'll do against Jones-Drew when they face him for the second time on Sunday.
If the Bengals can keep Jones-Drew from having a big game, and judging on how they played against him the last time they saw him (2008) and on how they've played against Ray Rice over the past three seasons I'd say there's a decent chance that they can, they'll force the ball into Gabbert's hands. If that happens, I think the Bengals chances of winning on Sunday go up quite a bit.