TAMPA — Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew literally wears a chip on his shoulder every Sunday.
It's stitched onto his jersey.
Jones-Drew said he picked No. 32 because of the 32 teams that passed on him in the 2006 draft. The undersized former UCLA star went in the second round (60th overall) to Jacksonville.
"I was an angry person coming out of the draft," Jones-Drew, 26, said. "It was something that kind of drove me."
Bucs coach Raheem Morris can see that fuel in the violent way he runs, a 5-foot-7, 238-pound wrecking ball who leads the league in rushing at 1,137 yards and on Sunday faces a Tampa Bay defense that struggles against the run.
"Jones-Drew hasn't seen a fight he doesn't like," Morris said. "He's one of the toughest guys you'll play against. He's a rolling ball of butcher knives."
What makes Jones-Drew's feat more impressive is his circumstances. The Jaguars are 3-9, last in the AFC South, use a rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert and have few other offensive weapons. As a result, opponents often stack the line of scrimmage. Jones-Drew estimates he has seen "more eight-man fronts than anybody in this league."
However, Jones-Drew, with 297 receiving yards, accounts for 46.9 percent of Jacksonville's offense, the highest in the league. That could spell trouble for a Bucs defense 30th in yards allowed.
"That guy is a beast," Bucs defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. "He's always looking to run somebody over; looking to hurt you when he runs the football. (Opponents) load the box, and they don't check to pass. They hand the football off, and he's still drilling people. He is their team."
Jones-Drew saw five running backs — Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney, DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai and LenDale White — drafted before him. None has more rushing yards as a pro than his 6,385. He said he'll always be grateful for the Jaguars for giving him a shot.
Jones-Drew got the opportunity to "learn from one of the best running backs in the league" in former Jaguars standout Fred Taylor.
Jones-Drew, who has five rushing touchdowns and one receiving, used New Orleans' Darren Sproles (5-6, 190) as an example for how smaller backs can make big impacts.
"Obviously in the league, they have their prototype. You want a guy who is a 5-10, 220-pound running back or a 6-2 receiver who weighs this much and runs this fast," Jones-Drew said. "But sometimes, playmakers come in all different sizes."
Jones-Drew has gone through a lot of adversity with the Jaguars, who have one playoff appearance in his six seasons (2007), used a revolving door at quarterback and recently changed coaches. Interim coach Mel Tucker, who took over when Jack Del Rio was fired last month, praised Jones-Drew's unselfishness.
"He's not worried about stats," Tucker said. "It's all about winning, and he has tremendous leadership."
Jones-Drew could have landed in a bigger market, one that doesn't deal with TV blackouts and makes perennial playoff appearances. But he put it in perspective.
"I'll always feel indebted to the organization," he said, "because I don't know where I would have been if Jacksonville hadn't pulled the trigger."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected].com