Now that the NFL season is set to begin in five days, many have selected their fantasy teams while others will do so in the next few days. One of the more intriguing running back questions entering 2013 is Jacksonville Jaguar Maurice Jones-Drew.
Will he return to form? How much does he really have left in the tank?
Rewind two seasons ago and Jones-Drew was the league’s rushing leader with 1,606 yards. He also set franchise records for rushing yards in a single season and yards from scrimmage.
Many don’t remember this as the diminutive player had an abbreviated and dismal 2012 season.
Prior to the sixth game, Jones-Drew had amassed 408 yards on 84 carries (4.85 yards average per-carry). In Week Six versus the Oakland Raiders, he had two carries for six yards before he injured his foot. This ended his season and in December of last year, he underwent surgery for his Lisfranc injury.
Jones-Drew recovered in the offseason and looks to regain his form. For this player, preseason games aren’t part of his usual routine but this year was different. In the second game of the season–his first–against the New York Jets, he had three carries for nine yards; he also caught a pass for a 20-yard gain. In the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles, he had seven carries for 28 yards on six snaps.
For the team’s final preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons Jones-Drew did not play. He said of his recovery so far via Jacksonville.com, “I feel comfortable. I think they do as well. These next two weeks, I’ll keep working on cardio and getting my speed back.”
At 28, Jones-Drew’s NFL career includes 1,570 carries, 1,862 scrimmage touches and 1,956 total touches. But for a running back, Jones-Drew is middle aged. Whether he can regain his 2011 form is the first question and whether or not he’s already peaked is a second one.
A look at some of Jones-Drew’s league running back peers could provide some insight when reviewing these players after they hit the 1,500-carry mark:
Now let’s make a 2013 projection for Jones-Drew. From the four players, look for a slight decline in his production: nearly half a yard per carry on his career 4.6 yards-per-carry average could be expected.
But another question is whether Jones-Drew will have lingering effects from the injury. Prior to it, he was averaging 318 carries per season and the Jaguars will look for him to again carry a top load this season. History has Jones-Drew expanding his yards-per-carry each season since 2010 and for him he could do so for 2013 may be a challenge.
Should the player hit a 1,000-yard season plus, the Jaguars should be happy but will Jones-Drew be content with that number?
Only time will tell for his future but for now, the stars appear to be aligning. And at age 30, if Gore is any type of example, he still sees good years head of him and doesn’t want to slow.
For now with its running back on the mend, if the team could only get a decent quarterback, that would help.