JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For all the yards Jordan Todman racked up Sunday filling in for an injured Maurice Jones-Drew, it’s the one he didn’t get that deprived Jacksonville of a shot at another victory.
Todman, who had been used primarily as a kick returner in his first full season with the Jaguars, made Jones-Drew’s bad hamstring a non-issue against Buffalo. He almost doubled his total rushing output by gaining 109 yards on 25 carries and also tied for the team lead in receptions on a day when the Jaguars were forced to go without their top pass-catcher, wide receiver Cecil Shorts III.
But with less than four minutes remaining and the Jaguars a yard away from tying the score, Todman was done in by the only tackle made all game by Bills backup defensive back Jim Leonhard. The Jaguars ran a toss sweep to the right, and Leonhard hurdled a block by fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou to haul down Todman for a loss of four yards.
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Chad Henne was intercepted in the end zone two plays later by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, sealing the Jaguars’ fate as their three-game winning streak was brought to a halt.
“Personal and individual goals are cool,” Todman said following the 27-20 loss to the Bills. “But it’s not as important as a win. I’d trade that to go away and leave with a ‘W’ and feeling good and celebrating with my team in the locker room right now.”
Coach Gus Bradley said he chose not to run Todman straight ahead in an attempt to cap what would have been an 80-yard drive because “we didn’t have a Mojo-type back in there.” Todman isn’t as built as low to the ground as Jones-Drew and is listed as almost 15 pounds lighter.
But the longer Bradley went on with his comments, the more he appeared to be second-guessing himself for not using Todman in a different fashion.
“He’s got really good speed, and he can get to the edge,” he said. “Outside zone-type plays have been good for him. The inside zone plays, he can do that. But in a goal line situation when they bring heavier personnel in, it may be a little bit more of a challenge. I guess until we try it, we don’t know.”
After using the second of their three timeouts, the Jaguars called a play where Henne tried to hit Mike Brown in the end zone. The pass was easily broken up and raised questions about why they didn’t try having Henne throw to 6-foot-6 tight end Marcedes Lewis, as they did near the goal line in their victory over the Houston Texans, rather than the 5-foot-10 Brown.
Gilmore’s interception came on the next play. Both Brown and Todman were in the general area, although Henne didn’t hesitate to say what he saw when asked to give his account of what happened.
“I just saw Mike Brown being held,” he said. “We’ll see it on tape.”
Todman first made an impact in the opening quarter, when he bounced outside to turn what looked like a short gain into a 16-yard pickup. The carry helped set up the first of Josh Scobee’s two field goals.
His longest gain was a 33-yarder in the third quarter. Todman did not have a run of longer than 13 yards this season, although it was his 63-yard touchdown during the preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles that probably cemented him a spot on the active roster.
“I was really pleased with his second half,” Bradley said. “He competed in the first half, but he really stepped it up even more. As he played more and more, he got more of a comfort level.”
A 30-yard completion over the middle from Henne to Todman early in the fourth quarter put the Jaguars in position to tie the game on a 13-yard pass to Lewis.
“With the more you do it, you get comfortable,” Todman said of his increased workload. “In the first quarter, maybe one or two carries, you may get a little nervous. But those things go away fast. By the second quarter, you’ve kind of got a flow.”
“They say perfect practice makes perfect,” Lewis said. “He’s a guy that’s been learning behind Maurice and chomping at the bit waiting to get his turn. And he came out there and did what we see in practice.”
With Jones-Drew’s future with the Jaguars very much up in the air, the final two weeks of the season could be an audition for Todman possibly being their primary back for 2014.
“It’s up to them. It’s their decision,” he said. “But I want to be able to do what I have to do, to do whatever it takes. If it’s a couple of carries, if it’s 20 carries, any opportunity that I get, I’m blessed and thankful for.”
In a season where not much has gone right for the Jaguars, the development of Todman is something for which they are thankful.