Maurice Jones-Drew Running in Fred Taylor's Shadow

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 24: Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs for yardage during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field on October 24, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Everybody wants Maurice Jones-Drew back in the fold.

Some are adamant that the Jaguars rework the deal that Jones-Drew is currently playing under and are pleading the Jaguars to "Pay MJD!" Many think that Jones-Drew should play out his existing contract that he signed before the 2009 season. Some think that the time to extend the contract is next offseason, but whatever their opinions on the contract situation, most fans want him back as soon as possible.

Ever since Jones-Drew joined the team he has been compared to Fred Taylor. Many enjoy debating who is the better back in their prime, or the more complete back, or any other comparison that might apply to the running back position. Votes are always given to both players. I think that Jones-Drew is still well within the shadow of Fred Taylor, a shadow that shades fans' views of Jones-Drew's current contract squabble with the Jaguars.

Although I am sympathetic with the Jaguars reluctance to negotiate with Jones-Drew, if you could guarantee that Jones-Drew would have the number of productive years that Taylor had, I'd be all for extending him now. However, an often overlooked fact in any discussion about Taylor is how extraordinary his prolonged production really was.

Taylor developed a reputation for being injury prone in his career. A closer look shows that except for the 2001 season when he only played in 2 games, he was a durable player as a running back. In his 11 years with the Jaguars he played in at least 13 games in 8 of those seasons. When Taylor was on the field he produced.

Jaguars fans have been lucky to have two such productive runners back-to-back for which to root, with many fans taking for granted that Jones-Drew will continue his production as long as Taylor did. A closer look at the history of NFL running backs tells us that is anything but a certainty.

Taylor had 10 years of top production in the NFL. In 2007, his tenth year in the league, he rushed for 1202 yards and made his first and only Pro Bowl appearance. How uncommon is that?

Very uncommon.

In 2011 there were only 7 running backs in their 10th year or more still playing in the NFL, but none of them were starters for more than 8 games. Four of the players have been backups most of their careers.

  1. Kevin Faulk , 13th season (backup)
  2. Sammy Morris, 12th season (backup)
  3. Thomas Jones, 12th season (started 8 games)
  4. LaDainian Tomlinson, 11th season (backup)
  5. Ricky Williams, 11th season (backup)
  6. Chester Taylor, 10th season (backup)
  7. Maurice Morris, 10th season (backup)

But Maurice Jones-Drew is special, right? He learned from Taylor and will be able to stay healthy and productive. That is possible. I certainly hope that is the case, but let's compare him to Taylor and another highly productive player who only lasted 9 years in the league.

Clinton Portis had high production from the moment he walked on the field in his 2002 rookie year.

Compare his statistics after 6 years with Taylor's and Jones-Drew's 6 years in the league so far:

Taylor, 1998 - 2003 (6 years) = 6356 rush yards; 1377 carries; 4.6 yards/carry; 52 TDs

Portis, 2002 - 2007 (6 years) = 7715 rush yards; 1710 carries; 4.5 yards/carry; 67 TDs

Jones-Drew, 2006 - 2011 (6 years) = 6854 rush yards; 1484 caries; 4.6 yards/carry; 74 TDs

Both Portis and Jones-Drew outpace Taylor after 6 years in the league, but Portis didn't have the long career Taylor did. Portis had produced consistently through his first 6 years and showed no signs of slowing down. He had another fantastic season in his 7th year and then the injuries started. After two injury prone seasons of low production, Portis was out of the league after his 9th season.

Jones-Drew is a special player now going into his 7th season. He is under contract with the Jaguars through his 8thseason. Will he be productive beyond that? If so, will he still play for the Jaguars? I hope so, but would I bet millions of dollars on it?

My heart says yes, but my head tells me that I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

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