Heading into the fifth week of the 2011 NFL season, the Cincinnati Bengals are set to take on the Jaguars on the road in Jacksonville. Like the Bengals, the Jaguars are in a transition period. Having released quarterback David Garrard just before the start of the season, the quarterback reins were turned over to Luke McCown. However, after two pretty poor performances, the Jaguars decided to make another quarterback change, this time promoting rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert as the team's starting quarterback.
In Gabberts' two full games as a starting quarterback, he has completed 28 of his 63 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions. In those two games he has 62.3 passer rating. Luckily for Gabbert, he has one of the league's better running backs behind him in the backfield to provide support and we all know that a rookie quarterback's best friend is a strong running game.
Over the past five season, Maurice Jones-Drew has made a pretty big name for himself. ESPN (In$ider) ranks Jones-Drew as the league's fourth best running back behind Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles and say that even though he lacks height and length, "he compensates with excellent quickness and body control."
So far this season, Jones-Drew is second in the NFL in total rushing yards behind Darren McFadden with 391 yards, which puts him on pace to have a 1,564-yard season.
The Bengals have only faced Jones-Drew one time in his five-year career. That game was in 2008, the year Carson Palmer went out for the season with a damaged elbow and Ryan Fitzpatrick took over the team for the season. The Bengals went 4-11-1 that year and heading into the ninth week of the season, the Bengals were 0-8. They played the Jaguars and Jones-Drew in week nine.
The Bengals won the game that day and headed into the bye week with a 1-8 record. More importantly, though, especially if we want to relate this game to this weekend's game considering the offense is completely different, the Bengals defense limited Jones-Drew to just 33 yards on 10 carries and 29 yards on two receptions in that game.
Jones-Drew did score a touchdown on a one-yard run at the very end of the game but until that point they held him to no touchdowns and just 3.3 yards per carry. He finished the season with 824 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns and from that point he hasn't had a season in which he didn't go over 1,000 yards rushing.
If the Bengals, who have the top-ranked defense in the NFL, can bottle up Jones-Drew like they did the last time they faced him and force the ball into Gabbert's hands, the Bengals could head into the sixth week of the season with a winning record.
It won't be easy, Jones-Drew has hit his stride since the 2008 season and while the Bengals defense has been impressive and looked great against the Bills, they let the Broncos, specifically Willis McGahee, do whatever they wanted in week two.
For the most part, the Bengals have been good against good running backs -- Peyton Hillis, Frank Gore and Fred Jackson -- and I'm confident that they can do the same against Maurice Jones-Drew on Sunday. If they pull it off, we should have reason to celebrate on Monday.