Taylor still playing key role for Jags as he nears rushing milestone

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Fred Taylor sliced through Houston's defensive front, cut left and picked up 76 yards before getting shoved out of bounds.

Taylor joked that his run on Jacksonville's second play last week would have been a touchdown three years ago. A few minutes later, he let everyone know how he really felt.

"I've still got it," he said.

Despite his age, a couple of major injuries and the emergence of Maurice Jones-Drew, the 31-year-old Taylor is still a key part of the Jaguars. He's keeping teammates humble and hungry and helping Jacksonville (4-1) find some much-needed consistency. He's also doing his part on the field.

To date, he has 297 rushing yards and needs 190 more to become the 21st player in NFL history to reach 10,000. He could get it Monday night -- don't laugh! -- against defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis (5-0). After all, the Jaguars set a franchise record with 375 yards rushing against the Colts last season.

"Anything is possible," Taylor said.

Taylor ran nine times for 131 yards against Indianapolis last December, including a 76-yarder on Jacksonville's first play that set the tone. Jones-Drew added a career-high 166 yards on 15 carries. Even seldom-used running back Alvin Pearman had 71 rushing yards.

The Jags picked up yards inside and out, controlled the clock and kept Peyton Manning & Co. on the sideline, executing the game plan to perfection in the 44-17 victory.

From that point, however, the teams went in opposite directions. Jacksonville lost three in a row and was eliminated from playoff contention; the Colts regrouped and won it all.

"The thing we really want to do is taste what Indy's been tasting," Taylor said. "They've been on top. We said Kansas City was that test, then last week we said Houston was that test. This is the test. This is the early season moment we've been waiting on. This is going to define this team a little bit more. It's going to show our character."

Taylor has shown plenty of character throughout his career. He dealt with an agent who lost him millions and a coach who refused to acknowledge the extent of his injuries; he even took on a mentoring role to Jones-Drew last season.

Although he realizes Jones-Drew will eventually supplant him in Jacksonville, Taylor doesn't feel threatened. In fact, he believes Jones-Drew's presence probably extended his career.

"I've never been the selfish type in my life," Taylor said. "I've always been the giving and sharing person. That's just me. That's my makeup. I'm not worried about a young guy pushing me out. I love competing. I love playing football.

"I'm going to play until I get tired of playing. It's not going to be because someone pushed me out. I still have some time left. If it happens to happen, I'm a role player. I'll do anything for the team. It doesn't bother me."

The only thing bothering Taylor these days is all the questions about last year's performance against the Colts.

He insists Indianapolis has improved its run defense dramatically since, and the absence of safety Bob Sanders was the main reason for all the holes.

Jones-Drew agreed.

"A lot of people want to talk about what we did last week or last year, but that's not going to help us do anything this week or this year, at all," Jones-Drew said. "It's a new week, it's a new game, it's a new team. We can't dwell on last week. When you dwell on the past, that's when you lose."

Since a 13-10 loss to Tennessee in the opener, in which they had trouble sustaining drives with the running game, the Jaguars have found their stride, especially the last three times out. They ran for 186 yards at Denver, 156 yards at Kansas City and had a season-high 244 yards against Houston last week.

Whether or not they have similar success against the Colts could well depend on Taylor still having it.

"We knew we could run the ball, but 375 yards' worth?" quarterback David Garrard said. "You never expect anything like that. But it gave this team great confidence that we can move the ball and keep their offense off the field. That's really how you beat the Colts is to keep their offense off the field.

"We've been doing a good job of controlling the clock here this season and we need to do an even better job this week."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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