Jaguars turn to Owens to handle running workload

Jaguars turn to Owens to handle running workload

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars are so banged up at running back that they're turning things over to a special teams ace.

With Maurice Jones-Drew, Jalen Parmele and Rashad Jennings all injured, the Jaguars (2-10) are planning to give former fullback and fourth-team running back Montell Owens the start Sunday against the New York Jets (5-7).

Owens is a two-time Pro Bowler, earning both trips with his special teams play. He has a franchise record 118 tackles on special team. His offensive resume is much less stellar. He ran seven times for 29 yards last week at Buffalo, giving him 21 carries for 112 yards in his seven-year career.

Nonetheless, he is welcoming a bigger role Sunday.

``It's just a chance to showcase yourself in a way that you haven't been accustomed to,'' Owens said Wednesday.

Owens knows his limitations: He's not the fastest guy on the field, doesn't have the best hands, isn't the most skilled blocker. But he has become a mainstay in Jacksonville because of his versatility and durability.

Owens missed just seven games, has played fullback and running back, and lined up all over the field on just about every special teams unit.

``I just enjoy playing the game,'' he said. ``It doesn't matter where I am. I'm not one of those guys that's concerned with where I'm playing or how much I'm playing. Some guys, they've been waiting to play the position that they had in high school or college. I'm just grateful for the opportunity, grateful to be part of this organization.

``Wherever that is, I'm going to put a winning effort out there.''

Jacksonville hasn't gotten many winning efforts from its running game this season. The Jaguars rank last in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 78.8 yards a game and 3.5 yards a carry. Coach Mike Mularkey's team is on pace to become the worst rushing team in franchise history.

The Jags finished with 1,600 yards on the ground in 2001.

They could be end up more than 300 yards short of that this season.

Jones-Drew's foot injury is the biggest problem. MJD injured his left foot on the first play at Oakland on Sept. 21. He stayed in for another play, but then left the game for good. He has been inactive for the last six games, and Mularkey called him ``very questionable'' to play against the Jets.

Jacksonville figured it would be fine with Jennings, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009 who looked good in the offseason and the preseason.

But Jennings was a huge disappointment, failing to find holes and dropping a number of passes thrown his way. Jennings averaged just 2.8 yards a carry in place of Jones-Drew and was benched three weeks ago in favor of Parmele, a journeyman who started the season as the team's primary kickoff returner.

Making his second career start against Tennessee, Parmele suffered a significant groin injury that landed him on injured reserve. That put Jennings back in the starting role, but he sustained a concussion against the Bills and has not been cleared to practice or play.

So now it's Owens' turn.

``It's not the ideal situation, but I think you've got to make an attempt to try to keep it balanced,'' Mularkey said. ``I trust Montell Owens. I think he's done well for the number of times he's had a chance to run the ball. All I heard about Montell, even when I wasn't here, was what kind of special teams player he was. And he is. He is everything I heard and maybe more.

``When he had chances to carry the ball, I thought `Wow, this guy. I knew he was a good football player, but this guy is a decent back.'''

The Jaguars promoted Richard Murphy from the practice squad and signed Jordan Todman off Minnesota's practice squad. But Owens will get most of the work Sunday - his first chance in seven seasons.

``Montell did a great job last week stepping in,'' quarterback Chad Henne said. ``Ran hard, guys open up some holes for him to get some opportunities. But with a full week of practice, he's going to get most of the reps. He's going to get the flow of understanding what the defense is trying to accomplish and what we're trying to do. So it's only going to benefit him.''


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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

News, notes and observations from the first week of NFL Free Agency

A whirlwind week in the NFL, but that's come to be the norm when free agency opens. Actually, not even when free agency opens, rather the legal tampering period opening two days before the actual start of the new league year. 

A lot happened, and more to come, but let's try to make sense of it all. 

  • The worst keep secret ever finally got revealed when the Redskins held their press conference to announce Alex Smith as their new starting quarterback. Everybody knows about the trade, and losing Kendal Fuller, but this trade makes a ton of sense and Smith was a homerun at the presser. He doesn't care about image or perception, a refreshing angle from the passer, and seems quite prepared for his new role. Smith was great in Kansas City in 2017. If he can replicate that in 2018 for the Redskins, the move will be loudly applauded. 
  • We still haven't gotten total clarity on Smith's contract. My intel says three years are really guaranteed, so Smith will be on the payroll through 2020 at least. Doug Williams joked at the presser that Smith could maybe play until he's 40, and since he's 33 right now, that would be a long time from now. 


  • Smith was the headline, but the Redskins also held a press conference with new WR Paul Richardson. He was possibly more impressive than Smith, just because the young speedster was more of an unknown. Smith has talked at a ton of podiums and faced a ton of reporters. I don't know, but that might have been Richardson's first ever press conference with a room that had probably 100 or more people in it. Check out the video above. 
  • Richardson had a great line when asked about the dangers of big hits on passes over the middle: "They gotta catch me." He's right. He will get a lot of opportunities for the Redskins, and he should make things better for Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. The Redskins wideouts did not get great separation in 2017, there are Pro Football Focus stats to back that up, and the offense got bogged down because of that. In 2018, with Richardson in place as a deep threat, defenses will need to react. 
  • The key to the Redskins offense truly succeeding in 2018: Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, the Washington air attack looks dangerous. 
  • Smart contract structure for the Redskins with Richardson. 
  • Zach Brown's contract is a 10/10 for the Redskins. A tackling machine that can actually improve from a strong 2017 season. Getting him back changed the entire tenor of Redskins free agency, as the team went from quietly sitting out the spending sprees (minus the Richardson move) to locking up their most important defensive player. 
  • Brown back, along with Mason Foster, gives the Redskins two strong inside linebackers. It's hard to remember now, but last September, that Redskins defense looked fierce. Injuries robbed the unit of a chance to completely gel and improve, but 2018 brings a new opportunity for that.
  • Offensively, the Redskins had to invest at wide receiver in free agency. The money for Allen Robinson got crazy and the team was smart to move forward with Richardson. He fits their desired profile: Young player coming off a rookie contract on a career upswing. 
  • The Redskins did not invest at running back, despite Jay Gruden and Doug Williams saying the team must improve at the position. Frankly, the Isaiah Crowell contract with the Jets was quite affordable, and he's a player some team sources had interest in. The Redskins do not have the luxury of taking a running back early in the draft, and I'd argue they shouldn't even look at RB in the second round. The Redskins should be focused up front on the offensive and defensive lines. A dream scenario: A player like Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne at 13, and then Ohio State interior offensive lineman Billy Price at 44. Price would have been a first-round lock but for a pectoral injury at the Scouting Combine. Medicals say he should be fine for training camp. Washington has shown a proclivity to draft players that slip due to injury concerns (Kendall Fuller in 2016, Fabian Moreau in 2017) and Price could fit the same mold. 
  • The vacancy at left guard has not been addressed, and wasn't going to be addressed in free agency, or at least not in the early days where the big money gets paid out. Washington has more than $26 million invested this season in just three players on their offensive line (Trent Williams at $14M, Morgan Moses at $5M, Brandon Scherff at almost $7M) and the team knows Scherff will cost more money soon. The Jaguars just gave Andrew Norwell $30 million guaranteed; the guard market has arrived. The 'Skins will want to keep Scherff, and to do it, they need to keep some cash on hand. That means the new left guard will either be a budget free agent find, or come from the draft.
  • To that point, the team viewed Spencer Long expendable. He was well liked by players and coaches, but has never played a full 16-game season and missed half the year in 2017. Also, the emergence of Chase Roullier helped the team move forward without Long. 


  • A bit of a surprise to see Trent Murphy leave, but he got good money from the Bills. Washington liked Murphy, and wanted to keep him, but not at the price Buffalo paid. 
  • What happened to Ryan Grant is complete junk. The Ravens are a first-class organization, but that was a bush league move. The guy has never missed a game in four years and now he can't pass a physical?!? C'mon man. Hoping the best for Ryan and will be interested to see if his represenatives seek retribution from Baltimore. 
  • Bashaud Breeland sure likes to keep it interesting. Why sign a contract if you know you have a hurt foot and can't pass a physical? Why would the agent not disclose that? Maybe it was disclosed, but that situation just seems so weird. The Redskins were never bringing Breeland back, something I reported as far back as December, but now it seems Breeland's next NFL team will have to wait to see when his foot can pass a physical. Bree is a good and funny dude, hope he heals up. 
  • Two crazy things from one draft class: The 'Skins NAILED their 2014 draft haul. Without a first round pick, they got five solid contributors in Murphy, Moses, Long, Breeland and Grant. But now, after their rookie contracts have all expired, only Moses remains with the team. Bizarre. 

  • Credit where it's due: The 2014 Draft belonged to a certain Bruce Allen. That was the year after the Shanahan crew was fired and the year before Scot McCloughan was hired. Credit where it's due. 
  • I think a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deal gets done. I think a Junior Galette deal might get done. 
  • Ndamukong Suh is still out there. Just saying. 
  • So is Bennie Logan. Just saying. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!