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No love for Bucs and Dolphins running backs?

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Even though the running back position in general and run games as a philosophy have been de-emphasized in the 2010s NFL, you still obviously have to have some balance on offense. And just as importantly, you must have some option of handing off to attain short-yardage success, too.

With all of that understood, former Jaguars back turned NFL network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew recently published his ranking of all 32 NFL teams Run games.

And whether you’re talking about the Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott, the Giants and Saquon Barkley or the Rams and Todd Gurley, obviously there are teams that have explosive big playbacks featuring them.

However, once you get towards the bottom of his listing, you start to run out of impact running backs for the teams whose Run games have suffered recently

Along those lines, after a disappointing second season Jones-Drew marked down his former franchise, the Jaguars, and star running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette was a mess of injury and off the field issues last year. And, The Jags came in at only 16th on his list with his analysis:

Bringing in Nick Foles will definitely help the Jaguars offensively, but the team is also going to need a bounce-back year from Fournette. He was about half as productive as he was in 2017, the season in which the team was a win away from the Super Bowl. He must return to rookie form. To do so, Fournette needs to dedicate his time to getting his body right. Being in great health doesn’t just happen overnight; the work starts long before Week 1.  

And then Jones-Drew listed numerous teams who’ve struggled and you had to get all the way to the end of his list find the Dolphins and the Buccaneers.

In both of their cases they’re relying on young back fields with now first-year coach is taking over trying to get used to them.

In Miami it will be Kenyan Drake now as the primary ball carrier, but they do have second year back Kalen Ballage and drafted Washington’s Myles Gaskin to compliment and compete with him this year. And, while Jones-Drew acknowledged that Drake has some potential, he still listed the Fins unit, as a lowly 31st saying:

Drake is an explosive player and eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season, but he’s never been a consistent, every-down back, which is why he doesn’t rate higher here. Plus, I’m not quite sure what this Dolphins offense will look like with head coach Brian Flores and offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, who both came from New England, at the helm. O’Shea was the Patriots’ wide receivers coach for a decade, so I’m wondering how similar (or different) Miami’s offense will be to the Pats’?

Finally, Jones-Drew saved his worst for last, and yes, that’s the Buccaneers. With former undrafted back Peyton Barber returning as the primary ball carrier, but last year’s second round pick, Ronald Jones, slated to challenge, MJD is unimpressed:

The Bucs’ ground game struggled in 2018, ranking 29th in the league, and was led by Peyton Barber. Barber was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, but I expect Jones to emerge as the team’s top back in 2019 because, well, he wasn’t drafted 38th overall in ’18 for no reason. He was a healthy scratch for the first three games of last season and then was sidelined by a hamstring injury later on, but he has the opportunity to re-write his NFL story this season in a new offense under Bruce Arians.

Miami Dolphins

Sunday sees Dolphins and Jaguars back in action

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the state NFL teams will be in action Sunday afternoon and both or trying to avoid 0- 2 for different reasons.

First, you have the Jaguars, who already resemble a “M.A.S.H. Unit” of injuries, as they head to Houston to play the Texans in an AFC South showdown. The excitement of the addition of free-agent quarterback Nick Foles lasted exactly part of one quarter last Sunday against the Chiefs. That’s when Foles suffered a broken clavicle and a report Sunday says he will not be back until at least week 11 with the injury:

That means that backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, a rookie 6th round pick out of Washington State, will now lead the Jaguars at least in the short-term. Minshew was very effective last week completing a high percentage of passes and moving the offense. Jacksonville also made a trade earlier in the week for Steelers backup QB Joshua Dobbs, but it’s not expected he will be able to contribute today.

Besides the Foles injury, the Jaguars will be without their top pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who suffered a hamstring strain in the lost to KC. The team will also be without left tackle Cam Robinson for the second straight game, as he suffered an injured knee in practice prior to the opener. The team also has ruled out defensive back A.J. Bouye and receiver Marqise Lee with injuries prior to this game.

The good news is the Texans are on a short week having lost an emotional, heartbreaking last second game to the Saints Monday night. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was also banged up, including an injured back off his first-half touchdown run. Still, the Texans will test the Jaguars pass defense the same way the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes did last week.

Meanwhile, in South Florida, the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots travel to take on the spiraling downward Dolphins. Miami was embarrassed 59 – 10 by Baltimore last week. And, that defeat now apparently has numerous players on the current roster wanting to be somewhere else, just as the Dolphins have gotten rid of most of their high-priced veterans already.

Controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown will apparently be active for New England for this game. Brown is being accused of sexual assault in a civil complaint that the NFL is investigating. However, the league took no action on keeping Brown from playing today and he did travel with the team.

The Dolphins do have some consolation in that under previous coaching staffs, they have won six of the last seven meetings against New England at Hard Rock Stadium. However, Miami’s got to find some kind of offense with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the backfield of Kenyan Drake and Kallen Ballage, to have any chance against the Pats.

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Miami Dolphins

Report- NFL will allow Antonio Brown to play for Pats Sunday

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Despite all the drama surrounding him, it does appear that new Patriots WR Antonio Brown will be allowed by the NFL to make his Pats debut Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium against the Dolphins. That is, if the Patriots intend to have active and playing.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early Friday afternoon that the nine year veteran acquired by New England last weekend after his volatile off season in Oakland led to his release last Saturday, would not be put on the “Commissioner’s Exempt List,” as a form of paid suspension, while sexual assault allegations are investigated:

Schefter reiterated that while the NFL has launched an investigation into the charges against Brown, after a civil lawsuit was filed in South Florida earlier this week, there is no criminal proceeding, yet and they will take the process in steps.

The lawsuit alleges that Brown inappropriately touched, committed a lewd sex act and then eventually, raped a 28 year old personal trainer, identified as Brittney Taylor, a former college classmate of Brown’s at Central Michigan, in three separate incidences from 2017-18.

That revelation was something that the NFL, and the Patriots, as well, did not know about, when Brown was signed Monday after he was released by the Oakland Raiders. Taylor is scheduled to meet with the NFL next week to give her version of the events.

Brown has been at Patriots practice on Wednesday and Thursday wearing jersey number #1 (above) during the portion of the practice that was open to the media. His lawyer, Darren Heitner, has publicly disputed the civil suit charges and told the media that Brown and Taylor “had a consensual relationship” in the past.

On Friday, Pats coach Bill Belichick refused to confirm whether Brown would make his debut against Miami or not on Sunday. Giving the non-answer on Brown’s status to play, “We’ll do what’s best for the team.”

He further told the New England media that Brown has; “long way to go, obviously. Not familiar with our offense. The systems he’s been in have been quite different. He’s working hard to pick it up and we’re working hard to get it to him.”

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