- Associated Press - Saturday, July 26, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - At the end of practice Saturday, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley screamed running back Toby Gerhart’s name, summoning him to break down the team huddle.

It was recognition for how well Gerhart performed during the first two days of training camp.

Teammates chanted “speech, speech” as Gerhart took center stage. Anyone expecting a grand statement surely walked away disappointed.

“Good work today; keep stacking the days together,” Gerhart told teammates and coaches.

In time, Gerhart might get more comfortable in a lead role. He certainly will get the chance in Jacksonville, which plans to get him 15 to 20 carries a game this season.

It’s a welcome change for a guy who spent the past four seasons as Adrian Peterson’s backup in Minnesota.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Gerhart said. “The more the merrier. I’ll take as many carries as they’ll give me. I’m ready to carry the load. It’s been a few years since I’ve had that amount of carries consistently. I’m excited for the opportunity.”

A second-round pick in 2010, Gerhart played in 61 games with six starts for the Vikings. He had a modest 276 carries for 1,305 yards (4.7 yards a carry) and five touchdowns. He also had 77 receptions for 600 yards and three scores.

Now, though, he will be the unquestioned starter in Jacksonville.

Although the Jaguars want to get second-year player Denard Robinson and journeyman Jordan Todman involved in the ground game, they plan to keep Gerhart as involved as his predecessor, Maurice Jones-Drew.

The Jaguars parted ways with Jones-Drew after eight seasons, opting to move on from a 29-year-old running back who totaled 8,071 yards rushing, 2,873 yards receiving, 2,187 yards in returns and scored 93 touchdowns.

Jones-Drew clearly had lost his breakaway speed after two significant injuries in recent years.

General manager Dave Caldwell believes Gerhart’s best football is in front of him.

“He’s been the workhorse before, just not at this level,” Caldwell said. “He’s built for it. He’s 235-plus (pounds), has a great frame, great muscle, great condition. The best thing about Toby is he’s got excellent hands, too, catching the ball out of the backfield, and his pass protection.

“I don’t think there’s much room for concern with him being the workhorse because he’s got the stature and he’s built for it.”

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