Maurice Jones-Drew Could Return for 2015 Under Jack Del Rio


Nov 2, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (51) tackles Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew (21) for a loss during the second half at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Oakland 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Aging running back Maurice Jones-Drew ended 2014 with the Oakland Raiders as the third string running back in a forgettable first season with his local team after returning to where he became a high school star at De La Salle. MJD didn’t even break 100 yards total over the course of the season, gaining just 96 yards in a disastrous spell with the Raiders that began by injuring his hand during Week One against the New York Jets.

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Because of his struggles and the lack of playing time near the end of the season, many expected Jones-Drew to be an easy cut for the Raiders to free up added cap space. However with the recent hiring of his former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio in Oakland, the window has opened for MJD returning against all odds for the upcoming season.

Recently Jones-Drew talked to the Oakland Raiders official website about his relationship with Del Rio, one that saw both players reach career heights as a head coach/player duo with MJD exploding onto the scene and Del Rio helping guide Jacksonville to two playoff appearances in addition to a big upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers during his time in Florida.

“We were very competitive,” Jones-Drew said of his time in Jacksonville playing for Del Rio. “We had a mindset of just dominating teams and it was instilled throughout practice, throughout meetings.”

Winning in Jacksonville and achieving individual success at the same time, MJD has nothing but praise for the new Raiders head coach who he feels is a “player’s coach.”

“He played the game before so he understands what it’s like to play,” Jones-Drew said of Del Rio’s ability to relate to players as a former linebacker himself. “To be sore, to play the game at a high level, to be an All-Pro, a Pro Bowler at the position of ‘MIKE’ linebacker. He understands what it takes to play at that level.”

“As long as guys buy in to [Coach Del Rio’s] situation and his message and his philosophy, we’ll be fine. I thought we did well towards the end of last year, we kind of started to really get ourselves going and hopefully we can start off faster and just carry it on throughout the year.”

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Based on Jones-Drew’s comments the veteran is confident that he could be back on the 53 man roster and survive becoming a salary cap cut. The Raiders could free up space and bring in a younger, more high upside talent in place of MJD and fans will be expecting general manager Reggie McKenzie to explore those options as the 2015 NFL Draft has a bumper crop of tailbacks to choose from in the middle rounds.

Add the potential of bringing back Darren McFadden (who outplayed MJD by a wide margin this past season) as the veteran back to platoon with Latavius Murray plus a free agent or draft pick and the potential for Del Rio’s former running back to be cut seemed inevitable. However with a bond between the head coach there is now a potential for Jones-Drew to return, something that may not be well received as it is a hard sell to bring back a running back who averaged just 2.2 yards per carry.

MJD’s future in the NFL and in Oakland will be a development to watch as the team enters 2015 Free Agency in March with the tough decision on what they will do with their veteran running backs. Just don’t count out Del Rio keeping “his guy” around out of loyalty as the man who rushed for 1000 yards on three occasions with the Jaguars during the peak of his career could get an extra season in Oakland due to his relationship with his former head coach.