Maurice Jones-Drew (Phil Coale/AP)
It has been an enormous offseason for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. After the Jaguars finished up a disappointing 2008 campaign, Jones-Drew lost his running mate and mentor in the backfield, as a youth movement caused the team to cut ties with “Mr. Jaguar,” Fred Taylor.
“This was a difficult decision to come to, but a decision that had to be made despite how we all feel about Fred,” Jaguars general manager Gene Smith said back in February when the team decided to go in a different direction without Taylor.
As the Jaguars released Taylor, it was clear that Maurice Jones-Drew was now the face of the team’s backfield, if not the organization. In three seasons after being drafted with the 60th overall pick from UCLA, Jones-Drew has been by far the most productive back of his draft class as he’s scored 42 touchdowns.
Jones-Drew believes that his success hasn’t come from formations or trickery, but more winning one-on-one battles.
“It’s not about tricking,” Jones-Drew said. It’s about going out there and whipping the man in front of you.”
Jones-Drew’s powerful style wouldn’t have many confusing him with a scat-back, but he can catch the ball as well as anyone in the league. Maurice believes that his role with the team won’t change much with Fred Taylor gone.
“I don’t think my role is going to change at all, to tell you the truth,” Jones-Drew told ESPN’s First Take. “I’ll still be running the ball, and catching the ball out of the backfield. I may catch the ball a little more, other than that I think it will be pretty much the same.”
The Jaguars still figure to split carries with Jones-Drew obviously getting the majority of the touches. Maurice still believes that the team has plenty of depth in the backfield even without Taylor.
“We pride ourselves on having a bunch of running backs that are versatile and we have a bunch of guys who are stepping up, Greg Jones, Rashad Jennings, Chauncey Washington, Montell Owens, Alvin Pearman,” Jones-Drew said.
Maurice Jones-Drew still figures to get most of the goal-line and short yardage carries, being he may be the best in the league in that role. Still, with Greg Jones, second-year pro Chauncey Washington, and seventh-round pick Rashad Jennings, Jones-Drew may not have to carry the ball 25 times per game.