The Jacksonville Jaguars are set to start their season on Sunday, but it will not be Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield when the Jaguars offense takes the field to begin the game.
Jones-Drew, who missed the entire preseason due to a contract holdout, lost his starting job to his backup Rashad Jennings. While Jones-Drew sat at home waiting for a new contract that he ultimately did not receive, Jennings impressed the new Jaguars coaching staff as the teams featured running back in the preseason.
Jennings was so impressive that new Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey felt comfortable in making him the starting running back despite Jones-Drew’s return.
Jones-Drew will eventually be the Jaguars starting running back, but he knows he has to earn his reps in the backfield.
“I have to work to get my job back,” Jones-Drew said before practice on Wednesday. “Nobody has ever given me anything so I’m used to it. I like it because the competition is going to be great.”
The Jaguars are not concerned about Jones-Drew’s conditioning, but how quickly he can absorb Mularkey’s new offense. Jones-Drew has spent extra time this week with Jennings and running backs coach Sylvester Croom trying to learn the new playbook.
It will not be enough for Jones-Drew to surpass Jennings by the time they play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, but he will have a role in the Jaguars offense this weekend. Mularkey expects to use Jones-Drew in third down situations as Jennings primary backup, a role that will eventually fall to Jennings as Jones-Drew becomes more comfortable with the offense.
Jones-Drew understands he has to be more patient in waiting for his turn than he has been in the past, however.
“It’s not necessarily about being ready, it’s about earning that position and earning that time,” Jones-Drew said. “It’s going to take a little longer and I understand that. That’s what happens when you do the things I did.”