The Jacksonville Jaguars rushing attack has evolved from hit & miss early in the season to a dominant force the past five weeks. There are two players who have been a part of that, and their names are not Maurice Jones-Drew or Rashad Jennings. They're two players who prior to the season were deemed "too expensive" to keep on the roster, especially if one was going to be in a back up role. The other was two expensive because of his injury history and the fact that his position was being "phased out" on this offense.
Well, Vince Manuwai and Greg Jones would like to have a talk with y'all.
Prior to the season there was this belief that fullback Greg Jones would be traded or cut. His salary was too high, he had a history of injuries, and the fullback was believed to be being phased out of Dirk Koetter's offense. I knew Greg Jones wasn't going to be released and I tried to portray that as much as possible without point blank saying, "I know." Despite the emergence of young Brock Bolen in the pre-season, Jones wasn't going anywhere. Bolen made enough ways to force his way on the roster, where many thought he was forcing Greg Jones out. Fast forward and Jones has become a vital part of the Jaguars offensive success. He doesn't touch the football I'm sure as much as he likes, but he's a key player in the Jaguars rushing attack. Jones rarely misses a block, rarely misses a bltiz pick-up, and is constantly praised by running back Maurice Jones-Drew. In Dirk Koetter's offense, Jones' role has actually increased.
Jones flexes out wide to almost a tight end position on some pitches. He splits out to the wide side of the field on short passes. He just flat out knocks out fools and takes out chumps, and he's playing at a Pro-Bowl level for a fullback.
All off-season, Vince Manuwai was still struggling to recover from his ACL injury of 2008. He looked slow and sluggish in OTA's, but it was non-contact. I made mention in my camp reports in training camp, that once the pads went on... Manuwai looked just fine. I felt like in the pre-season he'd outplayed newly acquired Justin Smiley for a starting guard position, but Smiley eventually won the job leading many to believe Manuwai and his salary would be dumped from the roster. I explained he wouldn't be, because of depth issues and the fact the Jaguars salary wasn't high as is, and he made the final 53 as I expected and knew he would.
Smiley went down in the Jaguars win over the Buffalo Bills, and he's stayed on the sideline since. Manuwai came in and Wally Pipp'ed Justin Smiley. Manuwai has started the last seven games and played excellent in everyone, having one of his best performances on Sunday against the Titans. He's been straight up dominating whoever has been in front of him, and it's been a big part of the Jaguars offensive success rushing the football. He and Greg Jones are big reasons Jones-Drew has five straight consecutive 100-yard rushing days, and why he's starting to get a few mentions as an unlikely league MVP candidate.
Both players in Manuwai and Jones are deserving of being on the AFC's Pro-Bowl team, which will be announced in the coming weeks. For two players who were supposed to have been cut, they've played at a Pro-Bowl level for much of their time in the line up. I honestly don't expect either to make it, but they are certainly deserving.
Am I just patting myself on the back on this? A little bit, but this is one of the times where I actually knew something and just couldn't straight forward project it.