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Jones-Drew an Elusive Cat to Corral


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Maurice Jones-Drew's dynamic versatility and explosiveness is anything but a secret around the NFL – the three-time All-Pro has rushed for 7,746 yards in his eight-year career, and his 64 rushing touchdowns are the most in Jaguars franchise history.

Count the Broncos defenders among those who are fully aware of what the Jaguars running back is capable of out of the backfield.

"He can do everything as a back," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said on Wednesday. "He can block, he can run, he can catch out of the back field. He's a smaller guy. He hides behind his blockers but just because he's a small guy doesn't mean he doesn't run hard."

Knighton would know.

He used to practice against Jones-Drew every day when they were teammates in Jacksonville from 2009-2012.

"He's very dangerous because you know what he's capable of," Knighton said. "He's won a rushing title in this league. He's been in numerous Pro Bowls."

Jones-Drew posted his best game of the 2013 season in the Jaguars' 34-20 loss to the Rams last Sunday, carrying the ball 17 times for 70 yards and catching two passes for 16 yards. And while Jones-Drew's season is off to a slightly slower start than he's accustomed to throughout his career, Broncos safety Rahim Moore noted that the running back still carries the same threat that he's always imposed upon defenses.

"He hasn't done what he's done in the past – as far as early in the season – but if you give him any crease in any type of running game, he's going to go for 100 yards," Moore said. "He's showed some signs of him breaking tackles and running guys over, so he's still the real deal."

Jones-Drew is no stranger to the Broncos, either.

He made contributions in each of the last three games the two franchises have played – including a 125-yard, two touchdown performance in 2008 and a 98-yard performance in 2010 – helping the Jaguars win all three of those contests.

It's Jones-Drew's compactness – his 5'7, 210 pound frame and rugged running style – that in part poses such a challenge to defenders.

"A lot of people like to compare to him to (Darren) Sproles but he's a totally different back then Sproles," Knighton said. "He's more of a power back, (Tampa Bay running back) Doug Martin is a similar guy like that. We just have to be gap sound because if you're not in your gap and you try to peak and find him, he'll find that hole and expose you."

"He is stout, very heavy-legged," Head Coach John Fox added. "He breaks tackles. He's not an easy guy to get down for one guy. You better play swarming defense against him."

Knighton noted that Jones-Drew excels at using his shorter body frame to his advantage by disappearing behind blockers and out of the vision of defensive linemen.

"When he gets the big runs, the explosive runs, it's when guys are peeking and looking for him instead of playing their fundamentals and trusting their technique," Knighton said.

"He plays with low pad level," Moore added. "He can catch the ball in the backfield, and he's tough."

All of the above are dangerous attributes that make gap assignments and defensive line fundamentals all the more critical, as defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson noted.

"He's (an) out the back door, cut-back runner," Vickerson said. "He likes to hit that backside A-gap on the power run. He definitely can bounce it outside and hit the stretch game. You've got to stay home on your responsibilities, gap-sound. Also, you've got to run and rally to the ball."

And, as they prepare to try to corral the elusive Jaguar runner on Sunday, there's no questioning the respect Broncos defenders have for Jones-Drew's proven ability. 

"I've seen what he's done in previous years to defenders and what he's doing now," Moore said. "He's still that guy, I can see why he's one of the top backs in the league."

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