ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Maurice Jones-Drew's career fell off track during his first season with the Oakland Raiders. A reunion with head coach Jack Del Rio could be just the thing to get the veteran running back going again.
Jones-Drew spent six seasons with Del Rio in Jacksonville and grew into one of the NFL’s top backs during that time. A second-round pick in 2006 who played in three Pro Bowls with the Jaguars, Jones-Drew put together three consecutive 1,300-yard rushing seasons, led the league with 1,606 yards in 2011 and rushed for more than 7,200 yards total while playing for Del Rio.
It was a much different story in 2014 after Jones-Drew signed a $7.5 million, three-year contract with Oakland.
Expected to be the Raiders’ lead back, Jones-Drew lost the starting job to Darren McFadden after Week 1, then fell further down the depth chart when Latavius Murray emerged as Oakland’s top running back over the final month.
Jones-Drew finished the season with a career-low 96 yards on just 43 carries and a 2.2 yards-per-rush average that was also the low mark of his NFL career. To put that in perspective, Jones-Drew has 27 games in his career with 100 yards or more.
Murray’s strong finish and Jones-Drew’s forgettable season has some people wondering if Jones-Drew will even be in Oakland when the 2015 season starts. He also carries a cap hit of $2.5 million each of the next two years, which could make him a roster casualty.
Still, Jones-Drew’s history with Del Rio might make that a moot point. The two men had a good relationship in Jacksonville and it’s conceivable, if not likely, Del Rio will make a strong push to keep Jones-Drew on the Raiders.
Oakland is also expected to emphasize the run more under Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
“I definitely want to be a physical outfit that runs the ball and imposes their will on the defense,” Musgrave said.
Jones-Drew will likely get his shot to be a part of that plan. Just how big of a role he plays, however, is uncertain. But it should help his chances being around a familiar face like Del Rio.