The Jacksonville Jaguars are scheduled to finish their preseason schedule Thursday night when they host the Atlanta Falcons at EverBank Field, but they will again take the field without perhaps their best offensive weapon in running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew has spent the entire off-season holding out in hopes that the Jaguars and new owner Shahid Khan would tear up his current contract with two years remaining and give him a new deal. However, Khan and the Jaguars have been firm in their stance to not negotiate a new deal with Jones-Drew, causing a rift that will now likely spill over into the regular season.
Earlier this week, new Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey already stated that Rashad Jennings would be the starting running back in the team’s first regular season game even if Jones-Drew were to report in time to be ready for the opener.
When asked how concerned he was about Jones-Drew’s holdout, Khan told the media that he had very little concern about his absence. Khan even went as far as to tell Jones-Drew that the Jaguars train was leaving the station, whether or not he was on it.
None of this sounds like it is coming from an organization that feels that Jones-Drew is going to make a major difference when it comes to improving their offense.
The truth is that they should not be concerned about Jones-Drew’s absence, as the offense has moved the ball just fine this preseason without him.
The old Jaguars regime put too much emphasis on a rushing attack led by Jones-Drew and completely ignored the NFL’s move towards being a more passing oriented league. Even with Jones-Drew being the league’s most dominant running back over the past three seasons, the Jaguars still never reached the playoffs when the offense ran through him.
The Jaguars have now handed the keys to their offense over to second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert and given him a respectable complement of wide receivers to throw the ball to.
The Jaguars may not get the same level of production from Jennings as they have been getting for Jones-Drew, but he has shown in the preseason that he can keep the chains moving for the offense.
Jennings will be a free agent next off-season and he is now being given a golden opportunity to earn a big contract by performing in Jones-Drew’s absence.
He could even make Jones-Drew an expendable commodity the Jaguars would consider trading next off-season.