Chalk one up for Shahid Khan and cool mustaches everywhere as Maurice Jones-Drew has ended his 38 day holdout and reported to the Jacksonville Jaguars without a new contract. Most holdouts are just part of Summer and a way for players to get out of some practice time. However, this one turned ugly with words being said from both sides that don’t really paint the picture of a Brady Bunch-esque type of player-to-management relationship. Regardless, it’s over now and dynasty league owners of MJD can breathe again as the league’s defending rushing champion is back for 2012.
So, now what?
For MJD, the future is pretty clear. He’s one of the league’s toughest players and there’s little doubt he’ll get himself back into the role of true workhorse back for one of the league’s least promising offenses. MJD has three straight seasons of at least 1,300 rushing yards and has scored 28 rushing touchdowns over the same span. Last year, he led the NFL with 1,606 rushing yards – quite a feat considering every team in the league knew he was Jacksonville’s only real offensive threat.
It’s going to take a couple of weeks for MJD to get himself back into game shape, but early reports indicate he’s not far off already. While he won’t start this week, there’s little doubt he’ll play some and he could work himself back into the starting role as early as week two. At 27 years old, he has a few elite seasons left in him and should be regarded as a rock solid RB1 this season. He could lose some work on third downs, but even then, it’s hard to see the Jags taking him off the field too often.
That’s not the story, though.
We all know what to expect from MJD as one of the league’s best talents. However, this preseason has allowed another player to clearly step up – his name is Rashad Jennings.
Jennings has flashed some ability over the past few years as the backup in Jacksonville. After all, he has 661 rushing yards and five touchdowns on just 123 carries, good for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. This preseason has seen him take it up a notch as he’s been utilized as the workhorse back for the Jags and has delivered with 209 yards on just 47 carries, good for the second most rushing yards in the league this preseason. While that may not mean much (William Powell was the leader this year), Jennings has simply been great in the absence of Jones-Drew and has truly earned the start this week with a great camp. He’s been a true bright spot for a team desperate for one and showed enough talent to be regarded as a RB2 should MJD ever miss significant time.
It’s just not his time quite yet.
Throughout the season, you can expect to see Jennings on the field here and there, but barring an injury, this is going to be MJD’s offense and not anything close to a true running back committee. He’ll likely be a change of pace option or situational player at best. In other words, he’ll come in when MJD needs a break and expecting more from him would be risky.
Many dynasty owners cut bait on Jennings last year after he was put on the injured reserve list with what many thought was a significant knee injury such as a torn ACL or ruptured patella tendon. It turns out the injury was much less significant and was likely just a severe MCL strain that didn’t even require surgery. The Jags just didn’t want to lose out on the roster spot last year and the injury news on Jennings was just never really publicized much – that worked out well for savvy owners who plucked him back off the wire.
While you may be thinking it simply doesn’t matter much with MJD back, you’re thinking in the present too much. Jennings is playing on a one year deal and has shown enough in his time as a Jaguar to merit some serious consideration from a team next year who chooses to fill a need at running back via free agency instead of the draft. He’ll be 28 at that point, but he could easily put together a really nice two to three year run for someone. We’ve seen he has the ability, but now he just needs the opportunity and one should come knocking next season.
Who knows what will happen next year with MJD’s contract, but it seems the Jags are more than willing to see him play it out over the next two years instead of trading him. You would have to consider it unlikely that Jennings would want to return and he would undoubtedly get some very respectable offers from some needy teams next off-season.
While everyone is talking about MJD and his return to glory, dynasty league owners need to dig deeper and see the real story here. Rashad Jennings is a player to stash away and cross your fingers on – he could just be on the verge of a nice short stretch of great production here in the next couple of seasons.