|MJD continues to hold out but his teammates want to see him in camp. (US PRESSWIRE)|
The Jaguars won five games last season and that was with the league's leading rusher, Maurice Jones-Drew. But MJD is currently a holdout, looking for a new deal, one that probably isn't coming, at least if we're to believe owner Shad Khan who told the Florida Times-Union last month that "there's no decision here … It's (Jones-Drew's) choice. There's been very little for us to do rather than wait on whatever he might choose to do."
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On Monday, Jags tight end Marcedes Lewis admitted that the team needed its workhorse back in training camp while acknowledging the business side of life in the NFL.
"What Maurice did last season was amazing," Lewis said Monday on NFL.com's Double Coverage. "I can see it from his side and then I also see if from a business standpoint, too. Right now you have two bulls butting heads. It's a bad situation. Regardless of that, we need Maurice. I'm hoping something happens or something gets reached where he can get back out here with us."
While MJD was the offense last season, does Jacksonville really need him? We ask because the Jags won five games, even with a guy in the backfield rushing for more than 1,600 yards. The bigger issue in a league where success is determined by the quarterback is the evolution of Blaine Gabbert. Reviews for the passing game through the first week of camp have been mixed but new offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski has lauded Gabbert's progress.
"That passing game right now is not very good," Bratkowski said after practice Monday. "It starts with the protection, the drops, running the routes improperly. I know when you stand on the sidelines and look at it a lot of times it looks like it's a quarterback, but I'll be honest with you many cases the quarterback is getting fooled or he's under pressure and having to make decisions faster than you would want him to make."
Gabbert has been the target of criticism since coming into the league in 2011 but coach Mike Mularkey sees a completely different player this summer.
"I don't see some of the things last year I saw on tape," Mularkey told CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco last week. "I see him much more balanced in the pocket. He is accurate. To his left, he still has some errant throws. He can get the play and call it without 'give it to me again, give it to me again.' I've been around a lot of those guys. Once he hears it, he's in the huddle and calls it. He has a lot of confidence about him. He hasn't let any of the stuff written about him get to him."
There's still a long way to go; rookie first-rounder Justin Blackmon may finally be under contract but he's a week behind his teammates. Meanwhile, free-agent acquisition Laurent Robinson has struggled early in camp. And while MJD's presence won't make or break the Jags' season, he'd be a nice security blanket for an unproven quarterback.
If there's a silver lining it's this: the bar is so low in Jacksonville that the team could win five or six games in 2012 and it could be considered progress. Ideally, they'd win many more than that but reality suggests otherwise.
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