Raiders enjoy early returns on RB Jones-Drew
Updated On: Jul 31 2014 01:09:23 PM CDT
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Early returns suggest the Oakland Raiders are getting a reasonable facsimile of the Maurice Jones-Drew who was one of the NFL's top running backs with the Jacksonville Jaguars before injuries derailed his career.
Jones-Drew has looked impressive on inside and outside running plays, showing a good burst. The Raiders are greatly anticipating seeing him perform in an actual game when opponents are tackling with intent, as opposed to fitting up during training camp contact.
Jones-Drew and returnee Darren McFadden have been splitting reps fairly evenly, with second-year player Latavius Murray, Canadian Football League refugee Kory Sheets, James Stewart and undrafted rookie George Atkinson III also in the mix.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen isn't overly concerned about naming a starter. With the natural attrition of the position and the number of snaps in a game, the possibility of having both veteran players rebound after difficult seasons would be a nice problem for the Raiders to have.
"Both those guys are out there competing," Allen said. "They understand that both are going to get an opportunity to play, both are going get touches and they're competing really hard. It's important to them. But they understand it's bigger than who is going to be the starting running back. It's what's going to be the best for the team and how we're going to win games."
Jones-Drew averaged just 3.4 yards per carry for the Jaguars last season, with 234 carries for 803 yards. Limited to six games because of injury in 2012, he is two seasons removed from a career best 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Having grown up in Antioch and gone to high school in the Bay Area at De La Salle, Jones-Drew is enjoying a rebirth.
"I don't want to prove anything," Jones-Drew said. "I'm just enjoying having fun and playing football. A long time ago I was an angry person, now I've gone to the positive side and I like it a little bit better.
"You do have people who say you can't do certain things and that does give you a little bit of fuel. But that doesn't matter when you're out there blocking or trying to catch the ball."
McFadden, always a training camp standout with a propensity for injury in the regular season, has had two difficult seasons, averaging a combined 3.3 yards per carry. Jones-Drew has liked what he's seen of McFadden so far.
"We want to create a standard of being the best backfield in the league," Jones-Drew said. "Darren's done a great job and I think we've all gotten better as a group."
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