Jacksonville Jaguars: Nathaniel Hackett can improve the Jags running game

Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett may be the guy to return the Jags to its dominant running identity.

Jacksonville Jaguars fans were spoiled with stud running backs like Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. The team’s identity was formed at least in part behind their ground games and it helped mold the Jags into a tough team that could play physically, grind it out or break it for a big gain.

Since MJD’s 2011 season the Jags have struggled to re-discover that identity.

Ranking no higher than 21st in rushing offense since 2011, the Jags have gotten far away from the glory days of MJD and Taylor. Few of the offenses fielded since 2011 have even featured rushing attacks that threatened to score. 2016’s ground attack led by Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon managed just eight rushing touchdowns (29th in the NFL) of which quarterback Blake Bortles accounted for three.

The lack of a rushing attack that can take time off the clock and wear down defenses has hindered the offense. The lack of balance has put far too much pressure on Bortles, boosting his numbers but also his mistakes.

While the news around offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s hiring may ultimately center around fixing Bortles, it may be the rushing attack that benefits most. Hackett’s previous history as a coordinator has emphasized the run, including impressive shifts when he took over midway through 2016. In the announcement linked above, Jags senior writer John Oehser notes that Hackett improved from 30th (72.6 yards per game) in the NFL under Greg Olson to fifth (124.8 yards per game) under Hackett.

That improvement is indicative of the potential success the Jags could have with Hackett as offensive coordinator. More importantly, his impressive work with the Buffalo Bills in 2013, in which the Bills had the second-best rushing attack in the NFL, indicates the running game could rise to be among the league’s best.

Whether Ivory and Yeldon (or anybody else who is drafted or signed) can get the team there remains to be seen. But it appears the team may be in good hands.

A return to the run game could be good for the Jags. It will certainly help with the team’s offense and it may just re-establish a long lost identity.

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