This weekend I was given the opportunity by Gatorade to have a quick conversation with Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew prior to an event they were holding in the Los Angeles area. I got the chance to ask him a few questions about all things Jaguars. Enjoy.
Adam Stites: I first wanted to start off by asking why you are out here today in the Los Angeles area?
Maurice Jones-Drew: You know, just being part of Gatorade, they asked me to come out here. Obviously because I went to college out here. I guess trying to have a bigger influence because there’s not really a football team, just college. So I wanted to come out and support some of the fans that are out here, Jaguar fans, UCLA fans, and really Gatorade fans. So I was blessed with the opportunity and I had to say yeah.
AS: The big news for you this offseason has been your Lasik’s surgery. How much of a difference do you think that will make performance-wise?
MJD: Not really, I think it was more for driving more than anything. Just because my vision was below the driving license standard to get my license renewed so I had to get it. With football it’s all reaction, especially at running back, it’s all instinct and reaction. So it might help me with catching the long passes, maybe, but other than that everything should be the same.
AS: There’s really no question that you’re the guy, but after you there’s Rashad Jennings, he’s developing, and the two rookies, Chad Kackert and Deji Karim, what do you think of those guys’ development?
MJD: Well, Rashad definitely last year had kind of an eye-opening experience coming from a smaller college to the NFL. It took him a little time to adjust, but he made great strides and now he’s kinda coming into his own as a player. He’s big, strong, fast, can catch, just a pure athlete. So he’s going to definitely show some people some stuff this year.
Then Deji coming in, he definitely helps us out on special teams. But his quickness and understanding the offense, you know he’s pretty raw coming from a school where it’s just run left, run right and so when you come to a more complex, west coast style offense. So he’s a little raw, but coach Ernest Byner is doing a great job of kind of developing him.
And Chad, I’ve never seen anyone that fast, all the time like that. So he definitely has a great opportunity to help on offense, and obviously on special teams.
You know, you kind of have to work your way into playing on offense and I think that’s what a lot of these guys are starting to understand when they come in. When I first got there I had to be kickoff returner, punt returner, kickoff team, punt team, everything. You know you had to play on all special teams to make an impact and then they start to trust you a little bit and they’ll give you more time on offense. I think what our GM is doing is bringing in guys that can play right now, but they’re really going to impact us on special teams and that’s how you win games the majority of the time. So, I think all three of them are going to make an impact on offense and just an impact on the team.
AS: Last year you were the workhouse guy for the Jaguars, taking a ton of carries. Going towards the future would you like to stay in that role or would you like to see more of a switch towards a two or three back system?
MJD: I love it. It didn’t bother me. I mean sure your body is sore a little longer than what you expect and you want to recover fully so you need to take more time off before you start working out, but there were no major injuries last year. I played every game, sometimes I’d play the whole game. It was exciting, I just had a great time. I was going out there and competing with my teammates and having fun. You know, it’s always a challenge to go out there and carry the ball 20-25 times a game or whatever it may be, so I really enjoyed it. I hope they trust me enough to do it again.
AS: Deji was one of the draft picks and he was kind of an unknown guy. Most of the draft picks were pretty unknown, even Tyson Alualu up at the top of the draft. What were your thoughts on the draft?
MJD: I really got out of questioning the draft just because last year our GM, like I said he’s done a great job bringing guys in, last year he brought in two tackles back to back and he got some guys where our first four draft picks started pretty much all year, so that was a huge deal. Then this year everybody questioned Tyson and who he was and how he was, but me being from the bay area and knowing a lot of people at Cal I had kind of heard about him. Coming up to the draft they told me how he’s a great player, a high motor guy, strong, explosive, just perfect for our type of defense. Watching him in OTAs he’s shown up and just played well throughout and so have all the other guys. Austen Lane’s been hurt so he hasn’t really been out there, but the other two guys have been playing great.
AS: Last question, what are your expectations for the 2010 season?
MJD: Just make it to the playoffs. Then whatever happens, happens. Last year we had an opportunity, we were first in the AFC wild card and the last four games kind of fell through. But it just shows you the talent we have and we’re still growing. We’re able to make some plays. I think this year could be the year, we have the AFC West and the NFC East so it’s going to be a tough year, but it’s alright, we’re fine, I think we can stick with anyone. Especially with a lot of the talent we have here.
Mike Sims-Walker is coming back after a great year, Marcedes Lewis had a great year, our O-Line is coming back together after playing a whole year together, David’s been working hard with the receivers, Greg Jones is coming back and that’s just on offense.
On defense, we have a whole new defensive front. You add Aaron Kampman who’s had double digit sack in our style of defense every year he’s played in it. You bring in Terrance Knighton who’s coming back after playing well. We added Kirk Morrison who has had 100+ tackles every year he’s been in the league. Our linebacking core is a strength, our defensive line is great. I think that’s why they really didn’t make too many moves in our secondary. They felt like if we added pressure to the quarterback, our secondary would have showed up.
I think everything’s in place for us. Our kickers, you gotta give specialists love because they win games for you, so our kickers are coming back and they’re doing great. A lot of guys are hungry just because of how things ended last year. So hopefully, we can make a run at this thing.