December 15, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) runs against the defense of Atlanta Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

General Manager 101: How To Soothe An Angry Running Back

Maurice Jones-Drew is angry.  CBS has reported that Jones-Drew is going to test the limits of the Jaguars ownership/leadership and see who will break first.  My money’s on Jones-Drew.  With as much spirit as MJD has, he simply does not have the resources to combat an entire franchise over a contract that isn’t even due yet.

So, assuming this all gets worked out at some point during training camp or the preseason, how do Gene Smith, Mike Mularkey, Bob Bratkowski, and Shahid Khan pacify the running back who is undoubtedly livid with them for not handsomely rewarding his strong play?

How're You Gonna Play it Mr. Smith? Source: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

The easiest way would just be to give him money.  Considering that the front office is not going to do that we need to think of a different strategy. Not fining MJD $30,000 for every day he misses camp would be nice.  But personally I think that the pacification will come via playing time and performance.

The Jaguars are going to have a much better year this year than last – with MJD or not.  I’m not guaranteeing 7-10 wins (or even more than five) but the team will be far more cohesive and look less like a high school B squad against the bigger opponents.  MJD is going to want on the ride.  There are a few things that will hold him back however:

  1. Not yet familiar with the offense
  2. Not yet familiar with the head coach
  3. Not yet familiar with new wide receivers (think blocking)
  4. Probably not in perfect shape

While I trust MJD on his work ethic, willingness to study, and his ability to stay in shape, there is something to be said about being at training camp running two-a-days and sweating it out with a coach driving you every step of the way.  Somehow that just makes you stronger, more in shape, and makes your mind really focus on doing everything right.

Out of the four things I listed for MJD, not being in perfect shape is the least of my concerns for him.  I think he’ll come back ready to play a bit more than Chris Johnson did last season.  But not knowing the offense, the head coach, or how his new teammates block and react to his running style will hold him back.

Rashad Jennings will have been working with the first team all offseason.  He knows how to run, he knows how to catch, and he’ll know the system.  Even if MJD comes back for the final preseason game, I bet that Jennings gets the nod in the first regular season contest purely because he knows what he’s doing more than Jones-Drew.  Will it anger the running back more to start from the sidelines?  You bet.

Everything I listed should put MJD on the sidelines to start the season.  Not every game mind you, but the team will want to see what Jennings can do and will be uncertain about the preparedness of Jones-Drew.  But when things start coming together, they’ll want his play making ability and he’ll want to be more than a backup in the something special the Jags are putting on the field.

Jones-Drew isn’t going to be satisfied until the Jags start winning and he’s a part of it.  His holdout is hurting him and the team, but with a little elbow grease he can get back in the lineup early on and he’ll probably come to love his new role in a brand new offense on a new team that’s going to take the league by storm.

– Luke N. Sims

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Tags: Bob Bratkowski Gene Smith Jacksonville Jaguars Maurice Jones-drew Maurice Jones-Drew Contract Maurice Jones-Drew Holdout Mike Mularkey Rashad Jennings Shahid Khan

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