EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 18: Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball during a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on September 18, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
While the focus and attention will be on rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert's first NFL start, the focus of the offense should still roll through runningback Maurice Jones-Drew. The Carolina Panthers are a good first start for Gabbert, because he can be eased into the lineup and initially allow the offense to flow through the Jacksonville Jaguars Pro Bowl runningback. The Panthers are a bit soft in the middle of their defense, and that plays right into the Jaguars hands.
Jones-Drew has looked just fine in his first two starts coming off his knee concerns, and would have easily eclipsed 100 yards in both games with only a handful of more carries. Jones-Drew rushed for 97 yards and 88 yards, respectively, in the Jaguars first two games on just 42 total carries. He's averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and that's with the Jaguars passing game being non-existent and going against one of the leagues better rush defenses in the New York Jets.
The Panthers lost both Jon Beason and Thomas Davis to season ending injuries. Beason ruptured his Achilles tendon and Davis recent tore his ACL. The Panthers as is are lacking at the defensive tackle position and losing both starting linebackers is only going to make stopping the run that much harder. In the first two games, the Panthers have allowed 223 rushing yards with teams averaging 4.9 yards per carry. While I'd like to see Gabbert be allowed to toss the football around, the Jaguars should be able to run the ball at will even with the Panthers loading up to stop the run.