RBs Toefield or Pearman likely will not make Jaguars roster
LaBrandon Toefield understands the Jaguars' numbers game at running back.
"Everybody knows that they can't keep all of us,'' he said. "Somebody is going to have to go. Whether it's me or someone else, I'm prepared.''
The Jaguars have all five veteran running backs returning from last year. They also drafted Maurice Drew in the second round of the draft.
That's why coach Jack Del Rio said running back is the deepest position on the team.
That's good for the Jaguars, but it means that - barring injury - they'll have to send a veteran running back packing before the start of the season if they keep the usual quota of five running backs.
Fred Taylor and Greg Jones are the starters. Derrick Wimbush is a backup fullback who can return kicks, and Drew is a lock to make the team because he's a high draft pick.
Two other backs on the roster - Rich Alexis, who has spent much of the past two years on the practice squad, and undrafted rookie Montell Owens - are long shots.
That likely leaves Toefield and Alvin Pearman in a musical-chairs battle for the last spot when the music of the preseason ends. Both were drafted in the fourth round - Toefield in 2003 and Pearman in 2005.
Running backs coach Kennedy Pola said the two players are similar. "They're smart, tough, real good ball-catchers, and they're fine-tuning their skills,'' Pola said.
Toefield rushed for 523 yards on 140 carries in his first three seasons and finished strongly last season, rushing for 102 yards in the season finale against Tennessee.
But he only played in nine games last year as his career took a backward step as Pearman and Wimbush stepped in as rookies and took playing time away from him, notably on special teams. Pearman became the punt returner and Wimbush the kickoff returner.
"I don't know what happened,'' Toefield said. "It [his career] has been kind of up and down. I'm not the type of guy that looks in the past. I just keep kicking.''
Pola liked the way Toefield handled the situation.
"I have to give the kid credit for the way he came back and fought through it,'' Pola said.
Toefield has experience dealing with frustration.
"It was tough, man, it was really tough. I'd never complain, and I'd never go to a coach and ask why I'm not playing. I just go out and do my job. I've been through too much,'' he said.
He was referring to the fact his mother died of a heart attack when he was a freshman at LSU.
The youngest of five children, he said, "It kind of made me a better person. It made me realize that one day you're here, and the next day, you're not. Take every day like it's your last.''
That's the attitude he takes.
"I'm trying to make an impact, whether it's on special teams or waterboy or whatever. I'm trying to do all I can to get on the field,'' he said.
Pearman had a solid rookie season and hasn't dealt with as much frustration. He rushed 39 times for 149 yards, caught 32 passes for 240 yards and averaged 8.4 yards as a punt returner last season.
"I thought he had an excellent rookie season," Pola said.
Pearman's fate could be tied to how Drew and wide receiver Chad Owens perform. If either Drew or Owens beat him out for the punt-returning job, he could be more vulnerable.
Pearman welcomes the competition.
"One of the first things I realized in the NFL is that if you shy away from competition, you won't last long in this league,'' he said. "This league has a wayof weeding those guys out.''
Pola said the Jaguars will just let the competition play out and said it's too early to start handicapping the race.
"We've got a long time before that [roster decisions] happens. These guys are working hard and competing, and somehow it works itself out,'' he said.