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Maurice Jones-Drew has ended his ill-advised holdout, and last year's rushing leader should be surging back up draft boards now.
Speculation ran wild during the preseason about what would come of this situation, and there were generally three schools of thought:
1) MJD would end his holdout, return to practice and return to form as one of fantasy's most dependable rocks in 2012.
2) MJD would end his holdout, return to practice and lose reps to Rashad Jennings, whose stock has been drastically over-inflated in Jones-Drew's absence. These pundits generally also believe that the holdout during a year that involved a coaching and scheme change will effect his play on the field, similar to Chris Johnson in 2011.
3) MJD would not end his holdout and only return to play six games in 2012, registering 2012 as a year towards free agency and completely screwing fantasy owners who rolled the dice on him as their RB1 or elected not to take an elite QB in favor of rostering him as their RB2.
Most people will tell you that Door No. 2 is the pathway that leads us into this NFL season when it comes to MJD.
And here we are, coming into Week 1, and reports from Jacksonville are spouting off passed-along coachspeak that a healthy MJD will back up Jennings in the season opener versus Minnesota and be relegated to third-down duty.
Let me clarify this, because it is being reported using confusing terminology all over the place.
We know that when asked about MJD during his holdout, new Jags head coach Mike Mularkey said that he wasn't worried about Jones-Drew's ability to carry the ball and to commit to his running assignment. He said that it would be the pass-blocking and protection schemes that would be "new" to Jones-Drew and needed to be learned.
So they want to play last season's leading rusher exclusively on third downs now? After one week of learning the protections? Yeah, right.
This quote from Mularkey on SI.com is very telling: "That's kind of the way the system works, yes. Whoever starts, the other one will handle the third downs."
Jennings has looked better than expected in MJD's absence, but this means one thing: In this system, there will be a primary runner, and there will be a satellite-type, situational runner to change the pace. It isn't necessarily a third-down back as much a situational back. Basically, it's a backup to spell the starter.
Think Michael Turner and Jaquizz Rodgers. That is how Mularkey utilizes RBs. He loves a lead runner.
Anyone saying that Rashad Jennings will be the Michael Turner of that equation within the new system is simply wrong.
MJD is getting a small slap on the wrist by (supposedly) being relegated to scrub duty in the opener, but very soon, Rashad Jennings will fall back into the depths of fantasy obscurity as a back who only sees the field to give the lead horse a breather.
I would not be one bit surprised to see the Jags' fake "changing of the guard" at RB take place as early as halfway through the second quarter of Sunday's game versus the Vikings.
Those who took MJD in the third or fourth rounds of their recent drafts—while others were spooked—have seen their stock plummet before surging back to near-record highs.