We've covered a bit the issue surrounding Maurice Jones-Drew's knee recovery this offseason, and I've made it known I'm a bit worried about. Recently, Jones-Drew spoke with Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union, and made it known he's ready to prove skeptics wrong.
"I can still carry the load regardless of what surgery I had or whatnot," Jones-Drew told Ganguli. "They're going to be kind of anxious to throw Rashad [Jennings] in, and they're already kind of scared of my knee. ... I want to be able to be out the gates playing because it's a production-based business. They're already skeptical maybe it's his knee, maybe we're working him too hard, we should give him a break."
There were reports in the preseason that Jones-Drew had surgery to repair a torn MCL, but Jones-Drew's camp flatly denied those reports. As it turned out however, Jones-Drew did tear his meniscus and played 14 games with the injury, ending up with a bone-on-bone issue requiring surgery this off-season.
"There's been no discussions in the offensive staff room of Maurice's knee," Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told Ganguli by phone. John Oehser of Jaguars.com made mention that one of the things in training camp to watch however, will be the use of Rashad Jennings. "...another storyline to watch being the playing time of backup running back Rashad Jennings. He could see more carries in an effort to ease the burden on starter Maurice Jones-Drew," wrote Oehser.
While I'm not going to yell the sky is falling, reading the tea leaves does make it seem like there is actual concern to the health of Jones-Drew's knee, especially because of the lockout situation and the inability of the team to "monitor" his recovery. Jones-Drew claims he was running back in April, but just last month was medically cleared to run and participate in "football activity".
In 2010 Jones-Drew had 299 carries, just 13 less than his career high, but in only 14 games. He averaged 21 carries per game in 2010, and was on pace for around 342 carries. If Jones-Drew had hit that mark playing all 16 games, that would have ranked him with the most carries in the NFL (Michael Turner led the league with 334). Jones-Drew did led the league in attempts per game, however.
Even in 2010, the Jaguars made mention before the season that Rashad Jennings would need to help lighten the burden on Jones-Drew, like Jones-Drew did for former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor. Jennings only averaged 7 rushes per game however, and that number was inflated due to Jones-Drew being out in Weeks 16 and 17. Of Jennings 84 total carries, 37 came in those final two weeks. That means when Jones-Drew was healthy, Jennings averaged just 4 carries a game.
That's not enough, especially when you know your starter is playing on a bum knee. Then again, maybe the team didn't really know the extent of it. "That was a very small circle of people that knew the extent of how much Maurice had to go through to play on that knee last year," Koetter told Ganguli. "I was not in that circle. I didn't know."
"If I have to go through double days in camp to prove it, I will," Jones-Drew told Ganguli. "I'm fine."
I sure hope he's fine. He said he was fine last year, too. He clearly wasn't.