How Much Does Maurice Jones-Drew Still Have Left in the Tank?

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How Much Does Maurice Jones-Drew Still Have Left in the Tank?
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Quick—name the NFL's rushing leader in 2011. 

Still thinking? 

The answer: Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars

Not exactly fresh in the minds of football fans today, is it?

The 5'7'', 210-pound blue-collar running back is less than two years removed from winning the rushing title, but he has experienced quite the fall from grace since then. 

Prior to the 2012 season, Jones-Drew held out in hopes of signing a long-term extension with the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2006 draft. After 38 days without a new deal, MJD reported to Jaguars camp on Sept. 2, a week before the regular-season opener.

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The reigning rushing champ accumulated 408 yards on 84 carries (4.85 yards-per-carry average) before the sixth game of the year against the Oakland Raiders. He had just six yards on two carries in that Week 6 outing before suffering a foot injury that would ultimately end his season. 

Jones-Drew underwent foot surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury in December. Fortunately, he's been practicing "without apprehension" this summer with Jacksonville, per ESPN.

So, with his health close to being fully restored, how much does MJD have left in the tank?

To start, the 28-year-old has logged 1,570 carries, 1,862 scrimmage touches and 1,956 total touches, including his time as Jacksonville's kick and punt returner, in his NFL career.

Obviously, every running back is different, but let's look at how some of Jones-Drew's contemporaries fared after they surpassed the 1,500-carry plateau, or were at least reasonably close: 

Solely basing a projection of MJD's possible future production on what those four running backs have done—guys who've had relatively comparable careers to that of the Jacksonville back—a dip of nearly half a yard per carry on his career 4.6 yards-per-carry average is expected. 

Now, we don't know how much MJD's foot injury will slow him down as he enters what most would consider to be the twilight of his career, or at least the end of his prime. 

If he's not hindered by the injury he suffered early in 2012, playing behind a relatively revamped offensive line, it wouldn't be outlandish to expect between 4.2 and 4.4 yards per carry from MJD

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

And just because his fellow veteran runners combined for a yards-per-carry average of 4.24 doesn't mean that's the valley to which Jones-Drew will dip. 

But the cumulative efficiency of those four runners means recent history says he won't be as effective on a per-carry basis as he was earlier in his career.

How many yards will Maurice Jones-Drew run for in 2013?

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We shouldn't be shocked if a running back shows signs of slowing down after 1,500-plus carries. However, it's worth noting that pre-injury, MJD improved on his yards-per-carry average every season since 2010 (the same goes for Frank Gore).

If healthy, Jones-Drew should be fully capable of contributing another 275- to 300-carry, 325-touch regular season. It would just probably be unfair to expect him to achieve his career average of 4.6 yards per carry.

The Jacksonville Jaguars would be more than happy with a 275-carry, 1,110-yard campaign from Maurice Jones-Drew in 2013, anyway.

 

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