Maurice Jones-Drew has been, up until this week, the highlight of the Jaguars offseason – at least nationally. The guy is a stud running back who has plowed over defenders and all competition to make sure that everyone knows that he is the best. He got the money he wanted three years ago and now wants more, can’t blame a guy for that. There isn’t really a numbers game for Jones-Drew with his final two years of his contract coming up, the team expects to pay him for the services he has been contracted for.
But with the miracle of Rashad Jennings and Montell Owens, it’s looking more and more like the Jags don’t need the a-typical Pocket Hercules to carry the load. A lot has been said about Jennings’ ability to pound the rock as the first stringer. So, does MJD still have a spot on the team with the Jags?
Let’s take a peek at who I see as the top three guys who will come out and make it tough for MJD to justify keeping his job (much less get an extension).
- Rashad Jennings – Longtime MJD backup and spell back waiting for his chance before being derailed by injury last season. He has 23 attempts for 118 uards (5.1 yards per carry).
- Montell Owens – A special teams ace and a staple with the Jags for years, Owens is coming alive as a runner with more opportunities without MJD around for the preseason. He has 11 carries for 51 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown against starters and backups.
- Keith Toston – Originally a ways down the depth chart, he has worked himself up to third behind Owens and Jennings with his strong running. He has dominated the backups he has been facing, plowing for 100 yards on nine carries (11.1 yards per carry!!!!) and one touchdown.
With the three guys above looking like some kind of scary three headed beast, running by committee could be the approach if MJD never comes back. Jennings could carry the load, but I would guess Mularkey and Co. would like to split the carries up for fear of injury, because after Toston the production takes a sharp decline.
But Owens is a special teams ace…is he worth jeopardizing in this situation? Good question. No, he isn’t.
Owens has found himself a spot with the Jags based purely on his ability in special teams. The fact that he is a good back hardly factors in because he has only had 14 attempts in his six seasons with the team. He has found his niche and will be in that niche until the Jags are forced into play him. With MJD still technically a part of the team they shouldn’t risk playing Owens.
That leaves Toston and Jennings as the primary ball carriers. It is widely speculated that Jennings could be the go-to for a season if needed, and I agree. However, I expect that there is some worry over injuring him again and being left with an even more shallow backfield. Toston would have to be used as a frequent spell back as a result. Not a bad idea with Toston looking like a juggernaut versus the lesser players of the opposition, but can he keep it up against starters? We simply don’t know. Expect some looks in the final two preseason games for Toston.
So here we come to the grit of it. MJD is the feature back. He takes punishment like a feature back. Further MJD has taken the knocks that a feature back takes, the Jaguars may as well give him more while they have his talent on the roster before his contract expires. He is good for a kick returner but more valuable running the ball. He is not good for special teams – don’t want to injure/wear out that feature back. He can catch and has some ability to break tackles and shake defenders. Further, he has the reputation that instills fear in younger players and respect from veterans (do not underestimate this, even though everyone on that field is a professional there are different levels of professionalism and how deep it runs).
MJD is the blocker, runner, and pass catcher that the Jaguars need. Toston could very well be the future, but he isn’t quite up to snuff just yet. Will MJD get a contract extension after this one ends? Maybe, who knows. But for now, even with the superb running off “the bench” he still holds a spot with the Jags.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims
Tags: Blaine Gabbert Jacksonville Jaguars Keith Toston Maurice Jones-drew Maurice Jones-Drew Contract Maurice Jones-Drew Holdout Maurice Jones-Drew Trade Mike Mularkey Montell Owens Rashad Jennings Shahid Khan