The reaction to the Oakland Raiders signing former Jacksonville Jaguars‘ running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been interesting. To many, it was a ho-hum deal, not accompanied by a lot of fanfare. But to others, the Jones-Drew signing has been met with angst and proclamations that Jones-Drew just committed “career suicide” by joining the Raiders — which strikes some of us as rather odd, and perhaps as even somewhat ludicrous. The reaction seems based on the belief that Oakland is the place where NFL careers go to die — and to be fair, that probably has been the case for a few years now.
However, GM Reggie McKenzie is finally free from Al Davis‘ shadow to mold and shape the team as he sees fit. The Raiders are undergoing a rebirth and Maurice Jones-Drew, like some other key veteran free agent signings, is a big part of that.
McKenzie’s re-signing of Darren McFadden raised a lot of eyebrows. But it was a low-risk deal that won’t financially strap the team, and actually provides some incentive for McFadden to stay healthy. But there is always the specter of McFadden going down with yet another injury in the back of everybody’s mind. And with only Jeremy Stewart, second-year back Latavius Murray and the unproven Kory Sheets on the roster, bringing in another RB couldn’t hurt — hence, the interest in Jones-Drew.
Some detractors of the Jones-Drew signing point to his “injury history” and make some nebulous connection between he and McFadden. But the connection simply doesn’t exist. Arguing that it does is ignorant to the point of absurdity and ignores factual history. While it’s true that McFadden seems to get hurt if a strong wind blows — he’s missed 29 games in his six-season career, Jones-Drew has only missed 14 games in his entire career — and 10 of those were in 2011 alone. He started 15 of the team’s 16 games in 2012 and has started no less than 14 games in any of his other seasons in the league. Hardly an apt comparison to McFadden — a player who can boast 13 starts in 2010, 12 in 2012, but no more than seven in any other season he’s been in the league. If you look at fact rather than some absolutely absurd idea plucked from the ether, Jones-Drew has been the more durable running back by far, and there is no real reason to think he will be any less so simply because he puts on the Silver and Black.
Some also argue that Jones-Drew is another bad deal based on the idea that he is in steady decline. While he hasn’t matched the 1,600 yards he posted in 2011, he was injured for most of 2012 — which precludes the possibility of him matching his productivity of the previous year. Though he only posted a little more than 800 yards in 2013, that is attributable to how horribly inept the Jaguar offense was as a whole. And lest we forget, those 800-plus yards, in a down year for Jones-Drew, would have led the Raiders.
The fact of the matter is that Jones-Drew will not have the burden of being the only viable offensive option for the team. With a lot of weapons at their disposal, and a passing attack that suddenly looks a lot more potent, Jones-Drew will not be asked to carry the entire team on his back like he did in Jacksonville. Free from that burden, and with teams not being able to shut down the offense by just keying on him, Jones-Drew is in a prime position to put up a terrific season. Though he may not run for 1,600 yards again, he will provide a much-needed punch to the offense.
Jones-Drew is approaching the twilight of his career, and came “home” to finish it out, there is no doubt. But he still has some good football left in him. Adding a back like Jones-Drew adds depth and dimension — something the Raiders haven’t had in their backfield in quite a while. While Jones-Drew may not be as electric as he was in his younger years, he will contribute to the culture change in Oakland. He will help the team he grew up loving climb back to relevance, if not prominence again. It’s beyond absurd to say that he committed “career suicide” by coming home to be a part of that.