Jun 2, 2014; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew (21) and offensive coordinator Greg Olson at organized team activities at the Raiders Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Since joining his childhood team back in March, Maurice Jones-Drew has laughed off the need to defend himself as well as his capability in 2014. Turning over a new leaf in Oakland isn’t causing NFL spectators to turn away from his most recent output in Jacksonville as he prepares for the season. Throughout the summer, he’s continued to reiterate that this scrutiny has only giving him something to prove heading into 2014.
As we evaluate the running back situation in Oakland, we have to realize our expectations of Maurice Jones-Drew should be just as high as his are of himself. There’s no question in my mind that Greg Olson doesn’t anticipate him being apart of a rotational backfield like New England and New Orleans utilizes. With the ability Jones-Drew has displayed behind a below average O-line in Jacksonville, Olsen should anticipate MJD becoming our feature back while Darren McFadden and Latavius Murray showcase their versatility.
“For me, it’s a chance I get to be in a place I can call home, which is home.. Just being able to relax and drive in and think ‘This is where I am, I’m home again..” – Maurice Jones-Drew
Every year we assume there isn’t a trend or even a curse pertaining to Darren McFadden and his ability to stay injured. As much as I hate to say it, (I am a fan of DMC) every year we witness the guy limping off the field. Were scouts accurate regarding his lower body analysis and how it couldn’t withstand the rigorous NFL game? In my opinion it doesn’t matter anymore, as this has been a discussed and analyzed enough over the past 6 years. We know he loves Raider Nation, but I’m not sure that’s enough.
The fact of the matter is, we have to assume Maurice Jones-Drew emerges as the starter once the season approaches and here’s why:
We can all admit that MJD becomes legitimately defensive when discussing his capabilities with the media. I know the Raiders have a lot of players that supposedly have a “chip on their shoulder” but Maurice Jones-Drew is no exception. This guy had a chip on his shoulder when he led the league in rushing back in 2011. He felt as though Jacksonville disrespected him when they didn’t match the deals that Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson were depositing.
He responded by averaging 4.8 yards per carry to begin the year in 2012. We all know the injury trail that he left soon after, and now we’re faced with a “what now” situation. Based on the way he responded when he wasn’t really desired in Jacksonville, I can see his own desire translating even better with a team that’s embraced him in Oakland.
Confidence is a huge aspect of success, especially in the NFL. This is what I truly believe Darren McFadden has lacked over the past 3-4 years. If the media is so quick to jump on Schaub’s confidence after one collapsing year, then we have to assume that collapsing with injury in consecutive seasons has the same affect on a player’s mental courage and certainty. So far this offseason, Maurice Jones-Drew has been laughing in the face of adversity and for that he’s created a high level of expectation heading into the 2014 season.
“He’s got ridiculous power in those legs. And he’s hard to see with a big line. He’s hard to see coming out of the line of scrimmage, and when he does come out, they get a glimpse of him and try and stick an arm out, he’ll rip it off. He’s got that kind of power.”
[on Maurice Jones-Drew]
In 2010, Maurice Jones-Drew gashed the Raiders for 4.4 yards per carry and a 30 yard touchdown to seal the victory. Although this is 4 years removed, MJD claims he can still perform at a high level. According to Raiders.com, Greg Olson said Maurice Jones-Drew has “..ridiculous power in those legs. And he’s hard to see with a big line… [and] coming out of the line of scrimmage… when he does come out, they get a glimpse of him and try and stick an arm out, he’ll rip it off. He’s got that kind of power.” He also mentioned the fact that he’s in better shape than he was after his hold out in Jacksonville. He now possesses a desire to return to greatness as Oakland offers him an opportunity he can literally run with.
MJD’s injuries have recently kept him off the field, but they’ve also kept his body from Sunday beatings. Once a running back turns 29 years old, you can assume he’s already on the decline. In Maurice Jones-Drew’s eyes, the last 2 years have actually opened his eyes a little in this regard.
Dec 29, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) during second half against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts won, 30-10 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Olson coached Maurice Jones-Drew when he was a Jaguar and got a good feel for what made him tick at that time in his career. Money. Or maybe he simply sought monetary reimbursement for being under appreciated while on a depreciating team. Either way, his relationship with Olsen should be interesting as the year progresses. The last time Olsen had him in camp, Maurice Jones-Drew was trying to prove he was an elite NFL runner and worth top money. Ironically, he is now trying to prove he still belongs in the NFL. Karma can be a female dog at times, but this gives Jones-Drew an unique opportunity to exceed expectations in his home town, for a team he loves. Motivation? One would think…
After 2 injury plagued seasons, we can all agree Maurice Jones-Drew needs to back his belief and play lights out in 2014. Not because we assume McFadden will go down at some point.. Not because we need our offense to revolve around the running game due to Schaub’s inefficiencies.. Because we simply expect him to be the top NFL running back that he claims to be. As I mentioned before, watching elite running backs terrorize the Raider defense as of late has left us coveting a top tier ball carrier. Unfortunately Darren McFadden has proven his inability to be a season-long every-down back and if the Raiders can solidify this position with Maurice Jones-Drew it gives them a chance to make some noise in 2014.
No matter how you look at this situation, Maurice Jones-Drew is the leading candidate to carry the Ball for the Raiders and he very well should be. Now it’s time for him to prove to his beloved Raider Nation that Reggie McKenzie made the right move this offseason.
You can talk all you want Maurice, but talk is just speculation and we want to see it on the field. As we enter this new era, we don’t want you to prove neigh sayers wrong, we’re expect you to. Welcome to the fight.
Follow me on Twitter and be courteous in the comment section. -Jt