TJ Yeldon has run for 621 yards in his rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. A solid yet modest number – one which sees him rank 15th in the NFL in rushing yards.
While the Jaguars have not tried to overload the rookie, his workload is increasing as he is being asked to catch more passes out of the backfield and has been called upon to block oncoming pass rushers - Jaguars offensive line having failed at times to keep quarterback Blake Bortles upright.
Yeldon appears to be the real deal here in Jacksonville – everything the team could ask for after making him the 36th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Only Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon were chosen ahead of the Alabama star.
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Things look bright for him as he is the lead runner on a team that appears to be on the rise. But could he shoulder more of the offense? That’s the question Jacksonville must find out over the next five weeks.
Yeldon needs to average 75.8 yards over the remainder of the season to become the team's first running back since Maurice Jones-Drew to rush for 1,000 yards.
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Jones-Drew did that back in 2011 when he lead the league in rushing.
The Jaguars are in desperate need of a solid running game to take the pressure off of Bortles, who is having a solid season despite too many interceptions and missed opportunities in the red zone.
Balance could really help this franchise and prove to be the difference in a break even record or another high draft pick.
Yes, it’s that crucial.
Yeldon carried the ball nine times -the fewest rushing attempts of any game in his rookie season - for 36 yards, and caught four passes for 46 yards in Jacksonville's 31-25 loss to the San Diego Chargers last time out.
The Jaguars abandoned the running game – something that fans and the local media have been talking about all week.
If Yeldon gets more carries, can the Jaguars win this weekend at Tennessee? Will Yeldon have a huge day against the Titans defense? Can Yeldon solidify himself as a major force running the ball and in fantasy play?
If he can do all of that, look for the Jaguars to win more games than they lose the remainder of the season.
In a division such as the AFC South, the playoff berth is still up for grabs. Yeldon can make the biggest statement of his young career this week and next against the Indianapolis Colts.
While he may still be a distant second to Gurley in rushing yards as a rookie, he can still make a solid impact, which is what the Jaguars want – more than any personal achievement he might accomplish.