The biggest story of the NFL's preseason was Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Believing that he deserved more than his current contract, Jones-Drew missed all of the Jaguars preseason activities and games.
Now that he has ended his holdout, how do they bring the NFL's reigning top rusher back into the lineup? Apparently, as a third-down back, according to coach Mike Mularkey.
When asked Monday about Jones-Drew's status, Mularkey told the Associated Press (via Sportsnet.ca):
"I don't know the number of reps that he will play, but I would imagine that he will play, yes... If you look at him physically, yes, I'd say he looks game ready... I have to see more than just an hour and a half practice."
My question is, if MJD looks game ready and believes he is, why wouldn't you start one of the league's best rushers?
Mularkey did announce that Rashad Jennings would be getting the start in place of Jones-Drew before the holdout ended, but now that it is over, I'm pretty sure that Jennings would be OK with Jones-Drew taking his job back.
Jones-Drew has worked hard in the offseason, working out with former teammate Fred Taylor in order to stay in shape. He said this about this week's game:
"Yeah, I'm going to do the best I can and be ready... (Playing time is) up to the coaches. If they feel I'm ready, I'll play. And if not, that's their choice."
If the Jaguars' choice is to simply use him as a third-down, goal-line running back, they are making the wrong decision. Jacksonville doesn't have much going for it, and if it wants to have any chance to move up in the AFC South, the team needs Jones-Drew.
With Blaine Gabbert as quarterback and Justin Blackmon at wide receiver, Jones-Drew, along with free-agent acquisition Laurent Robinson, provide veteran experience on a young Jaguars offense. With the Jaguars defense in the top 10 last season, all they need to do is fix their offense, and they should at least stay out of the basement in the AFC South.
Jones-Drew held out because he wasn't being paid like the other elite running backs in the game. Now that he's back, the Jaguars need to play him like one of the elite. Jones-Drew is of much more use to them on the field, rather than the bench.
Hopefully, Mularkey will find some common sense and start MJD.