Rashad Jennings (Getty Images)
Heading into his fourth season, Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew has shown that there really isn’t much that he cannot do. What about the rest of the backs?
The 5’7” ball-of-fire has proven that he’s one of the hardest backs in the league to tackle and he compliments his mind-boggling power with excellent burst and the ability to score any time he touches the ball.
Jones-Drew has made his mark in the league as a tenacious runner, a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, and a consistent kickoff returner. Yes, Jones-Drew has shown that he is the complete back, but there’s one label that Jones-Drew cannot draw claim to, and that is the term feature back.
In a league that has shifted towards a two-running back system, Jones-Drew has had the fortune of being paired with Fred Taylor for the first three years of his career. The two were one of the most feared running back tandems in the league over the past several years, but Taylor was cut this offseason and for the first time in his professional career, Jones-Drew will be a lead back.
“It’s a little different not having (Taylor) around but we’re still the same guys,” said Jones-Drew. “Greg’s (Jones) here, Montell (Owens), AP (Alvin Pearman) and we got a couple new guys but we’re just trying to keep it going and having fun.”
Being the main guy will be a change for Jones-Drew, but he said that he’s up to the task and when asked if felt his role changing, he said he didn’t.
“No, not at all. I’m going to do whatever they ask and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Jones-Drew also said that he’ll be in better shape, something that will be a necessity since he has never had to take the majority of the Jaguars’ carries. Last year, Jones-Drew set a career high with 192 carries and also had a career low in yards per carry, with 4.2, which was still impressive.
With his rushing attempts sure to go up this year, Jones-Drew will now see why so many teams have adopted to the two-back system. It is getting more and more difficult for backs to stay healthy for an entire NFL season and that’s why it’s imperative to have some help at running back.
Given that he will have to face the rigors of being option one for the Jaguars, does the team have an adequate backup to spell Jones-Drew or replace him if he gets banged up?
As of now, the Jaguars have Greg Jones, Alvin Pearman, Chauncey Washington and Rashad Jennings.
Jones, who starts for the team at fullback, has a competent backup in Montell Owens and could switch to running back in a pinch, as he has flourished when he has been given the bulk of the carries. Still, Jones is a Pro Bowl caliber fullback and it could be difficult to move him away from the position for more than a few possessions. Washington looks to be little more than a short-yardage back though and Pearman is best as a third-down type of back.
That means the team could be banking on Rashad Jennings, a seventh-round selection from Liberty. The small school back is anything but small, as he is 6’1”, 230 lbs. Jennings moves gracefully for a big back and was slated by some to go as high as the 2nd-round in this year’s draft.
Jones-Drew seems to have faith in the rookie.
“I lived with him when I was down training so I know a bunch about him,” added Jones-Drew. “He’s a big man so he’s definitely going to help us in the running game.”
Whether the team is completely set at running back remains to be seen, but there is some potential brewing behind Jones-Drew on the depth chart.
The back has show in his tenure with the Jaguars that he can be dynamic, but can he handle the load as an every-down back? The odds are good that he can, but does he have enough help to give him some breaks? We’ll see very soon.
For more, go to: JagNation.com