For the most part over the past several years under the Jack Del Rio regime, Jaguars fans have become accustomed to terrible, inconsistent offensive play. During this time, Maurice Jones-Drew, has been arguably the only bright side on the offensive side of the ball in Jacksonville. He’s been the face of the franchise. He’s been to the Pro Bowl three years in a row. He was the league’s leading rusher last season. However, the Jaguars will now begin preparation for their third preseason game of the year, and Jones-Drew still hasn’t shown up in Jacksonville. Despite all of that, they seem to be just fine without him.
It’s well-known that Maurice Jones-Drew hasn’t shown up to Jacksonville because he’s looking for more money. Prior to the 2009 season, Jones-Drew had primarily been a back-up to long-time starter Fred Taylor for three seasons. When the team brought in Gene Smith as the new General Manager following the 2008 season, Smith signed Jones-Drew to five-year, $31 million deal, making him one of the highest paid running backs in the league at the time. By doing this, Gene Smith and the Jaguars certainly weren’t doing Jones-Drew a disservice, considering many around the league argued that Jones-Drew couldn’t be an every down back. While they were wrong, the Jaguars still paid Jones-Drew as a starter, prior to him actually being a starter, yet people are claiming that the Jaguars ‘aren’t loyal.’ Another misconception of this whole situation is uninformed people saying the “Jaguars should pay Jones-Drew.” He is paid. He has two years remaining on the deal.
Drafted out of Liberty in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Rashad Jennings served as the backup to Jones-Drew in 2009 and 2010, but missed last season due to a leg injury suffered in the third preseason game on the road against the Buffalo Bills. He was put on injured reserve, and had his first action back in two seasons against the Giants last week. He rushed for 56 yards on 12 carries for a 4.7 per carry average, and the momentum continued this past Friday night in New Orleans, as Jennings ran for 62 yards on 11 carries, including a 17-yard run. Therefore, on 23 carries in two preseason games, Jennings has rushed for 118 yards for a 5.13 per carry average, and continues to show the same flashes that we saw prior to the injury. Aside from Jennings, Montell Owens has shown he can be an assett to Jacksonville’s run game as well, and with the team actually showing a passing game this season, the team is showing that it doesn’t have to rely solely on Jones-Drew, as it has in the past.
Shahid Khan, the new owner of the Jaguars, doesn’t seem too concerned about the absence of Jones-Drew either. “He’s not here. That’s his decision. Believe me, it’s not a great concern. You hope for the best, and you plan for the worst. Our goals for the season don’t change, and if he isn’t here, he isn’t here. I don’t control it. It’s his choice,” Khan told Mike Silver of Yahoo Sports. With the Jaguars first team offense showing much improvement these past two weeks, especially in New Orleans in their victory over the Saints, this team is looking like they won’t trouble scoring without their Pro Bowl running back, who led the league in rushing last season.
With two solid games now under Jenning’s belt this preseason, any leverage (which isn’t much at this point) that Jones-Drew has is quickly evaporating. If he chooses to show up, that’s great, because he’s a three time Pro Bowler, the league’s leading rusher from last season, and undoubtedly one of the best players this franchise has ever seen. Yet, if he doesn’t show up, that’s fine too. There’s too much excitement around this team this season, and if they have to, they’ll roll on without him.