It’s been a wild ride for Maurice Jones-Drew over the past couple of seasons.
After six solid seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the running back suffered a season-ending foot injury in 2012 after only playing in six games.
He returned from injury last year but was obviously still dealing with the lingering effects, as he failed to record over four yards per carry in a season for the first time in his career.
Jones-Drew’s 3.4 yard-per-carry performance in Jacksonville last season was enough for the Jaguars to allow the running back to hit the open market—even though he still showed glimpses of his old form at times in 2013:
Well, there was one more wrinkle to that story that went unknown until recently.
During an interview with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Jones-Drew made it known he contemplated retirement:
For awhile, I was contemplating retirement because I just didn’t feel like I had it anymore. My trainer helped me get back in shape and gain that foundation that I’d lost with the surgery.
It doesn’t bother me that people have written me off, but it’s just how they’ve done it. I understand if I had played bad the year before, then played the way I did [in 2013]. Then, I could understand people saying, ‘Oh, he’s done.’ But I was leading the league in rushing before I broke my foot.
Not only was Jones-Drew’s decision to forgo retirement and remain in the league a good one, but the Raiders are about to reap the benefits of a very good running back with a big chip on his shoulder.
According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Jones-Drew will be looking to silence doubters:
Before Jones-Drew’s injury, he was still considered one of the better running backs in the league.
After all, he was coming off a 2011 season in which he rushed 343 times for 1,606 yards, an average of 4.7 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. He also caught 43 receptions for 374 yards and another three scores that year.
In 2013, not only was Jones-Drew recovering from a serious injury, but he was running behind the worst run-blocking offensive line in the league. The Jaguars were given a negative-80.8 grade by Pro Football Focus (subscribers link) last season.
To put things into perspective, the New York Jets were ranked 31st with a negative-45.7 grade.
Adding insult to injury, Jacksonville also had one of the league’s worst passing games on a very unbalanced offense.
Simply put, Jones-Drew was set up for failure.
Now that he’s fully recovered, and working vigorously with his trainer, he is poised for a major bounce-back season in 2014.
Even though McFadden is still listed first on the team’s depth chart, he can’t be counted on to carry the brunt of the workload through an entire season—he has yet to play a full 16 games in any of his previous six years in the league.
Jones-Drew has carried at least 300 times twice in his career. He’s proved before he can handle the bulk of the work out of the backfield. Expect him to take the reins on a Raiders offense that will be looking to control the clock to keep the dangerous offenses of the AFC West off the field.
Expect to see the former Jaguar on the field often due to his abilities in pass protection as well. Here’s a look back at what he’s done in that area:
By season’s end, Jones-Drew will be Oakland’s leading rusher and will have produced significantly enough for the team to be thrilled about his offseason acquisition.
Not too shabby for a guy who was recently close to retirement.
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