Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fred or Famine Jags Can Feast If Taylor Gets Loose

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fred or Famine Jags Can Feast If Taylor Gets Loose

Article excerpt

The tape goes into the machine, the smile goes on Tom Coughlin's face. The visitor is given a directive.

"Watch this," Coughlin said.

The tape is a compilation of running back Fred Taylor's greatest hits, an eye-opening, quick-moving collage of his best runs. They are runs so impressive, even Coughlin can't help but smile when watching.

"It's fun," he said.

It is a tape that Coughlin would often show visitors last summer, but also a tape Coughlin used to help inspire Taylor this season as he fought to overcome a hamstring injury.

"That kind of got to me when I was injured," Taylor said. "It got me ready to play. I really wanted to get back after that. I wanted to get back to that way of running. The thing is he brought me here. It's kind of like when you run across something good, that others weren't sure about. It makes you feel good to see it do well. Like if you have a kid. It makes you feel good to see him grow and develop and learn. It makes you sit back and be proud. That's the way it is for him."

The motivational tactic worked. As the Jaguars (15-2) ready for the AFC Championship game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, Taylor is back to being that player. His 90-yard run last Sunday in the Jaguars' 62-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins was the longest in playoff history, but more than that, it showed that he's close to being back to his old form.

He's back as the player the opponent must stop, the player who gained 1,223 yards as a rookie in 1998. He did it mostly with a style that features the big play, since he is the type of runner who can get a string of runs for little gain, then rip off a 90-yarder, much like Barry Sanders.

In the Miami game, he had 135 yards on 18 carries, but in addition to the 90-yard run, he had one of 18 yards and one of 10. That means he had 15 other carries for 17 yards.

"That's Fred," tackle Ben Coleman said. "You think you have him, then he kills you with a long run."

It's that big-play ability that has the Titans making him the focal point of their defensive effort heading into Sunday's game. Stop Taylor, they say, and then make the Jaguars one-dimensional.

It is a strategy that has worked against him in the past. In three games against the Titans in his two seasons --- he missed the first meeting this season --- Taylor has gained 202 yards on 61 carries for a 3.5 average. When you compare that to his 4.6 average the last two seasons and a playoff average of 5.4, it's easy to see why Tennessee or any other opponent would be so concerned with Taylor.

"You don't see a guy with that type of speed, power, elusiveness and game-breaking ability in a normal back," Jaguars tackle Leon Searcy said.

Taylor even surprises himself.

"Sometimes I'll see myself and say, 'Dang, that was sweet,' " he said. …

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