The holdout of Jacksonville Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew has drawn most of the national headlines this offseason, but what has been lost in all the drama has been the emergence of his backup, Rashad Jennings, as a legitimate NFL runner.
Given that Jones-Drew has yet to report to the Jaguars and has not yet picked up one of new head coach Mike Mularkey‘s playbooks, it is hard to see him ready to play when the Jags open their regular season against the Minnesota Vikings.
With that in mind, Mularkey said at his press conference on Monday that he expects Jennings to be the Jaguars’ starting running back in the team’s first game unless Jones-Drew’s situation is somehow resolved soon.
While Jones-Drew has spent the entire preseason on the sidelines trying to get the Jaguars to budge on giving him a new contract, Jennings has been nothing short of impressive running with the Jaguars’ first-team offense. In the Jaguars’ three preseason games, Jennings has carried the ball 36 times for 175 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Mularkey would not completely rule out Jones-Drew’s chances to start the first game, though. The first obstacle to getting Jones-Drew on the field in week one would be getting him to report.
Even if Jones-Drew does come back in time to start the first game, Jennings has earned a role in the Jaguars offense this season. It is a role that will help keep Jones-Drew fresh later in the season as it will help reduce the amount of touches, and therefore the amount of hits he has become accustomed to taking since becoming the Jags’ workhorse back in 2009.