According to some reports, Maurice Jones-Drew is ready to sit out for all of training camp and into the regular season. While this is a blow to Jaguars fans and fantasy football buffs alike, what if current backup Rashad Jennings is able to rush for 100 yards in the first game of the season?
The first game for the Jaguars is against the Minnesota Vikings. Like Jacksonville, the Vikings sport one of the best running backs in the game in Adrian Peterson. With a blown out knee from last year hanging over his head though, Peterson may not be able to make opening day as the starter. This rapidly shifts the highlight of the game away from two powerful superstar running backs to the proving grounds of now second year quarterbacks Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert (both of whom did about equally poorly last year).
Assuming things aren’t constant from last year and both teams aren’t inept at passing, the door is open for any player to make a mark early in the season. Why shouldn’t that player be Jennings?
In 2010, Jennings averaged 6.5 attempts per game with 5.5 yards per attempt. If we boost the attempts up to a meager 19 (meager by Jaguars standards) and lower the yards per attempt to 4.9 (it’s tough running like that all the time) we can come out with a nice 93 yards in the game. While 4.9 yards per attempt is quite good, I actually think it could be a conservative estimate against a Vikings defense that is great at getting to the passer (at least Jared Allen is) but is not so great at pretty much everything else. So, just for the sake of argument, we’ll boost Jennings up seven yards to put him at 100 for the game.
What would that do to the MJD holdout? The Jags are, according to most people, reliant upon Jones-Drew for any form of offense. But if Jennings can do what he can, then what is the incentive to continue to bargain? Further, will Jones-Drew come back immediately to fight again for the starter spot?
A holdout, out of shape (See: Johnson, Chris 2011) running back doesn’t suddenly become great again overnight. It takes work and everyone has to buckle down to do it. I think that Jennings has put the work in and seems to be poised for a great year. That first week is Jennings’ chance to make a statement. He can help himself immensely by rushing for 100 yards and we’ll be able to see if he can help the Jaguars force the hand of Jones-Drew.
- Luke N. Sims