Jaguars have plenty of motivation for finale

The Jacksonville Jaguars have plenty to play for in Sunday’s

season finale.

They want to give outgoing owner Wayne Weaver a victory in his

final game. They want to get Maurice Jones-Drew the league rushing

title. They want to keep the defense ranked in the top five.

All are realistic goals against the suddenly streaking

Indianapolis Colts (2-13), who have won two in a row against AFC

South opponents. Interim coach Mel Tucker reminded his players of

everything at stake during a team meeting Monday.

What he didn’t mention was any of those draft scenarios that

have dominated outside conversation, especially not the one in

which the Jaguars (4-11) could prevent the Colts from having the

top pick in April.

Instead, it’s about winning for the Weavers, getting yards for

MoJo and making stops on defense. If all those happen Sunday, the

Jaguars would end a mostly forgettable season with some positive

memories.

”That’s an extra piece of motivation,” defensive end Jeremy

Mincey said. ”You’re only as good as your last game, and we want

to make a great showing and move into the 2012 season with some

momentum.”

The Jaguars are planning a special tribute to Wayne and Delores

Weaver, who led the charge to get an expansion team in Jacksonville

in 1993. Somehow, and to some surprise, the Weavers landed a team

in one of the professional sport’s smallest markets. Wayne Weaver

controlled the team for 17 seasons, although the 76-year-old

businessman spent the last few looking for an exit strategy. He

found one last fall when he began negotiations to sell the

franchise to Shahid Khan.

The $760 million deal was approved two weeks ago, and Khan will

officially take over Jan. 4.

So the finale is Weaver’s farewell.

”Mr. and Mrs. Weaver mean a lot to this city, and our fans and

our players know that, our coaches know that,” Tucker said. ”We

want to put our best foot forward in their last game. Quite

frankly, we’ll give everything we can for them to finish on a high

note. That’s very, very important to this football team.”

Equally important is getting Jones-Drew the rushing title.

MJD leads the NFL with 1,437 yards on the ground, 128 yards more

than Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy. Jacksonville’s short and stocky

star has been the offense’s lone bright spot this season. He’s

averaging 4.5 yards a carry against eight- and nine-man defensive

fronts and with little threat of a passing game.

Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been slow to learn the

nuances of playing the most important position in team sports, and

he’s been hampered by dropped passes, poor routes and shaky

protection. And with a receiving corps that lacks big-play ability,

the Jaguars have been forced to rely on Jones-Drew.

Boy, have they.

Jones-Drew has accounted for 46.5 percent of Jacksonville’s

offense this season, which leads the NFL and is on pace to shatter

Fred Taylor’s team record (36.2 percent) set in 2003. If he does

win the rushing title, MoJo would become just the second player

since 1995 to lead the league in rushing while having the NFL’s

worst passing offense. Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis also did it in

2003.

In some regards, MJD’s season has been as impressive as a

2,000-yard performance.

His longest run is 43 yards. His biggest game is 122 yards. And

he’s accounted for at least 40 percent of the team’s offense in 11

of 15 games.

”He’s been a beast,” guard Uche Nwaneri said. ”You just can’t

describe how good he’s been, how much he’s carried us. What he’s

done he’s done every game, every week, regardless of the opponents,

regardless of the defenses. Everyone knows we’re going to run it

and they still can’t stop him. It’s unbelievable.”

Jacksonville’s defense has been resilient, too.

The unit kept the Jaguars in just about every game early in the

season. But after season-ending injuries to a dozen defensive

backs, several defensive linemen and a starting linebacker, the

defense has dipped in recent weeks. But players and coaches want to

stay in the top five.

”The ranking is everything,” Mincey said. ”To still be in the

top five in the league, I think that’s pretty impressive given we

had so many guys get hurt. That’s a lot to play for.”

But most of the external talk this week has centered on the

draft.

If the Jaguars beat Indianapolis, the Colts would secure the No.

1 pick in the draft. So essentially Jacksonville can help provide

the Colts the opportunity to draft Stanford’s Andrew Luck, which

means the possibility of delivering another top-tier quarterback

prospect to the Colts. The Jaguars have faced – and struggled

against – Peyton Manning twice a year since 2002.

”No one in this locker room is concerned with that,”

linebacker Paul Posluszny said. That’s all stuff going on the

outside. Trust me, we want to win more than anything. We have a lot

of stuff that we are very proud of, and we want to finish strong

this last game.

”We have a horrible record. We’re not going to the playoffs.

But we have a lot on the line.”