NFL Nation: Maurice Jones Drew

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- As heated protests boiled over in Missouri after the controversial shooting of an black teenager, Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew made a statement in Green Bay, Wisconsin, last Friday night.

Jones-Drew
At the end of a 40-yard touchdown run during the Raiders’ 31-21 loss at Green Bay, the longtime NFL star put his head down and put his hands up and stood silently. Jones-Drew is using a screenshot of the pose as his Twitter avatar. The stance has become a symbol for in the protests of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this month.

Speaking about the pose to reporters this week, Jones-Drew said he felt like he needed to stand up and make his feelings known.

“My goal is always to create awareness,” Jones-Drew said.

The Ferguson incident hit close to home for Jones-Drew. He was in Florida during the Trayvon Martin shooting and when a teenager was shot at a Jacksonville gas station because he was playing loud music.

“I know what it’s like to get pulled over when you’ve done nothing wrong,” Jones-Drew said. “I’ve been through those things. When you’re raising three young boys, you have to think about those things. When they get older and they go out at night, am I going to have to be the one to get that phone call? Those are things you worry about. That’s what I worry about as a father and what my mother worried about when I was growing up.”

Jones-Drew said he is unsure if he will continue to mark his touchdowns with the "hands up" pose.
Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen spoke to reporters on a conference call Saturday afternoon in the wake of Friday night's exhibition opener at the Minnesota Vikings, a 10-6 loss.

After watching the game tape, Allen broached several topics. A sampling:

On the Raiders' 13 penalties:: "A couple of those are this year's points of emphasis with the NFL and with the officials with defensive holding or illegal contact down the field. That's an area that we have to get cleaned up. Illegal hands to the face is another area that they're emphasizing. We had basically two of those. Brian Leonhardt was called for a facemask. That was one of those where you have two guys battling and his hand kind of slips off and grabs a guy's facemask. That's something that I don't know that in the past that you would have seen some of these things called, but with the rules and points of emphasis, we're going to see those things."

On what Latavius Murray brings that is different than Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden: "Latavius is a big, powerful back that really also has exceptional speed. When he gets out into the open, he has an opportunity to take the ball the distance. I thought he ran the ball hard in the game ... I thought he did a pretty good job, for the most part, of making the right reads and putting the ball where it needs to go in the run game."

On the play of the new starting cornerbacks, who seemingly played off the ball and paid for it early:: "I think overall it was positive. Obviously, when the first drive -- the thing you look at is a couple of those throws to Cordarrelle Patterson, there's some tight-window throws and contested catches and that's what you want to see because I feel like if you continue to contest those plays, you're going to get your fair share of them."

On which younger players jumped out to him on film: "I thought Shelby Harris did some good things in the game. I thought he got a little tired late, but I thought kind of in the middle of the game, I thought he did some really good things. He was able to get some pressure on the quarterback, had a sack-fumble. I thought TJ Carrie played well in the defensive backfield. I thought [Ricky] Lumpkin did some good things in there as a defensive lineman -- great technique. Some of the guys down that are battling for spots on that 53-man roster, I thought I saw some good things out of them."

On the play of new quarterback Matt Schaub: "I was pleased with what I saw out of Matt Schaub. I mean, two of the third-down throws, you know, he tries the back-shoulder throw down the middle to Mychal Rivera and that's a catch that he's made consistently in training camp. The corner route on a third down was an outstanding throw in a tight window against Cover 2 and Mychal again wasn't able to come up with that play. We had a miscommunication on the first third down of the game where he was trying to get the ball to Andre Holmes, and those are some of the things that show up in the first preseason game that we get a chance to look at it, we get a chance to correct, coach it up, and hopefully we'll be able to improve on that. I was not displeased with Matt Schaub's performance. We obviously need to play better and we need to be more consistent. But again, I thought there were some things that we can build on."

On whether rookie quarterback Derek Carr would get any reps with the first-team offense this preseason: "Yeah, it's not really part of the plan right now. We'll obviously evaluate everything as we move along, but the plan is to work Matt Schaub as the starting quarterback and I think he's done a good job in doing that."

On the play of top draft pick Khalil Mack, who had two tackles, one for a loss: "I think you saw a guy that is a rookie that was playing in his first game. A couple of times we activated him on rushes and he was able to cause some disruption. But then there were some times where, a little bit in the run game and a little bit in the pass game, he is just a little bit late in reacting to his responsibility. I think that's a guy that is playing in his first NFL game ... I don't want them doing a whole lot of thinking. I want them just really basically reacting to what they see and go play football."





Also, rookie defensive tackle Justin Ellis suffered a concussion in the game, taking a knee to the head, and is going through the NFL's concussion protocol. ... Oakland practices at 3 p.m. PT Sunday in Napa. ... The Raiders break camp Monday morning before traveling to Southern California for two practices with the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday and Wednesday. ... Oakland plays host to the Detroit Lions in both teams' second exhibition game Friday night.

W2W4: Oakland Raiders

August, 8, 2014
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The Oakland Raiders (0-0) and Minnesota Vikings (0-0) open their respective preseasons Friday night at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

1. First-team reps: The obvious question for a preseason opener revolves around playing time for starters, because no coach in his right mind wants to subject a front-line player to unnecessary risk. Yet, he also has to find a balance to get his guys some serious run in a game situation. A series or two? “All these things can change based on how the game goes, but we’ll put the first team out there for a few plays and see how things go,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “I really want to get the ones some work, but I really want to have an opportunity in this first preseason game to see a lot of these young players go out and play … you’re trying to use this as an evaluation process."

2. Khalil Mack: The No. 5 overall draft pick has already shown a preternatural ability to fly to the ball in camp, but while the Raiders have been in pads most of the time, they are not tackling to the ground. This will be the first time we see how he responds and if the hype is real. Granted, it's an exhibition game, but it will be his first live hitting since college. “I can’t tell you what kind of player I am, or what kind of player I’m going to be,” Mack said. “But I can show you.” He will also show the Vikings, if only for a few plays.

3. The running backs: Neither Maurice Jones-Drew nor Darren McFadden will be exposed to many hits, so expect a healthy dose of Latavius Murray, Jeremy Stewart and CFL Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets, which might lead some to believe a roster spot could be won in a crowded backfield. Perhaps, but probably not. Stewart and Sheets will probably lead the team in rushing in the preseason and it’s possible neither will make the initial 53-man roster. Think Louis Rankin. “I want both of them to play in the game,” Allen said of Jones-Drew and McFadden. “I want both of them to get a couple of touches in the game.We’ll see how many that is … there are a lot of new players that we have and we need to see them go out and perform. They need to work together because there is a lot to be said about getting out on the field and having a good feel for what the other 10 guys around you are doing.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The NFL wasn't the first place Rashad Jennings found himself overlooked. By the time he'd been a seventh-round pick and a backup to Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville and Darren McFadden in Oakland, Jennings had already made his peace with the idea that nothing was going to come easy for him.

"I've never stopped growing," the New York Giants' new starting running back said before a practice last week. "I had to, because when I was a little, short, fat, overweight kid, dorky with glasses, I had to figure something out. It's a blessing not to be the most talented guy when you roll out of bed, not to be the fastest guy. It keeps that chip on your shoulder."

Jennings
Signing the 29-year-old Jennings was one of the first things the Giants did in their incredibly busy free-agent season. Rather than let the market sort itself out, they jumped to get Jennings, who tore them up a bit as Oakland's starter in Week 10 last year and impressed them as someone who hasn't yet had a chance to showcase his full range of skills because he's played behind others. They see him as a do-everything type of back, who can carry a starter's workload, can catch the ball out of the backfield and can be used at the goal line as well.

Now, he may not have to do all of those things, because right now they have David Wilson and Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis as options as well. And if everyone stays healthy, the running back group should be deep enough to help the coaches keep everyone fresh and put them in the best possible positions to succeed. But Jennings is ready for whatever they want to throw at him.

"This opportunity is great," Jennings said. "I have prepared to start every day since I've entered the league. I've been like that since college. I am not taking this for granted. I'm humble."

He looks good on the field so far in training camp in a variety of roles. He seems to have fit in quite nicely in the locker room. He has an engaging personality and a great deal of confidence, which he says is brought on by his devotion to year-round training and nutrition.

"What separates guys as they continue to play is what they do in the offseason," Jennings said. "I train year-round. And the way I eat, the way I sleep, the nutrition, massage, M.A.T., chiropractor, all those little things. If it works a little, I want a lot of it."

I had to look up M.A.T., but I'm pretty sure he's referring to muscle activation techniques, which is a process that measures and develops the efficiency of a person's muscle contraction. This is a dude who is paying attention to his body and making sure it's in the best possible condition to take advantage of the opportunity now in front of him. He said sitting behind Jones-Drew and McFadden gave him time (and motivation) to work on his fitness, nutrition and wellness techniques, and that the timing of his opportunity to be a full-time starter has therefore actually worked out well.

"I got a chance to mature," Jennings said. "I got a chance to learn how to take care of my body, and I've been blessed to have a chance to allow my body to catch up with my maturity."

Now, those things are intersecting with opportunity. Jennings has a chance to be the man in the ground game for a Giants offense that's ready to look at lot different than it did last year. He's been waiting -- and working -- for this chance for a long time.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is being sued by a man who claims Jones-Drew struck him during a bar fight last summer.

Jones-Drew
Kasim Howard filed a civil lawsuit in St. Johns County that alleges Jones-Drew hit him from behind during an altercation at a St. Augustine, Florida, restaurant/bar called the Conch House on May 26, 2013. The suit alleges that Howard, who was working as a bouncer that day, suffered bruises, a loss of consciousness, a concussion and a herniated disk in his spine.

Jones-Drew, who signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract ($1.2 million guaranteed) with the Oakland Raiders in March, was not charged in the incident. The state attorney’s office, after a monthlong investigation that included viewing surveillance tapes of the incident, said the state could not establish any charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jones-Drew’s attorney, Henry M. Coxe III, released the following statement regarding the lawsuit: "The State Attorney shut this down after reviewing everything. We haven’t heard anything in ages and then we get a lawsuit after he moves to Oakland? We will deal with this in the judicial system as we have everything else."

Howard’s attorney, Patrick T. Canan, was unable to be reached for comment Thursday night.

Howard is requesting a jury trial and is seeking damages because of emotional distress, pain and suffering, embarrassment, medical expenses, lost wages as a result of his inability to work as a professional boxer, and legal fees.

Raiders offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Oakland Raiders' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Photo/Michael ConroThe Raiders were happy to land versatile linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round.
Best move: Letting the NFL draft come to them. By sitting tight in the first round, the Raiders saw playmaking linebacker Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall. By sitting tight in the second round, the Raiders saw their quarterback of the future fall into their laps at No. 36 overall. General manager Reggie McKenzie gets high marks for not overthinking things and staying true to his gut and drafting for need as well as snagging the best player available a year after trading down and taking injured cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Riskiest move: Call it semantics or claim that someone -- either McKenzie or the player’s mom -- was not telling the whole truth as to whether the Raiders presented a respectable offer, but the Raiders allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer to leave and reunite with quarterback Carson Palmer in Arizona was not a good way to begin free agency. In Veldheer, the Raiders had a known commodity. In his wake Oakland had to rebuild the offensive line. Replacing Veldheer was seemingly an unnecessary distraction, and though Donald Penn seems a suitable replacement, left tackle will be a need again soon enough.

Most surprising move: Getting an established, respected and accomplished veteran like two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end Justin Tuck to buy in early and sign with a rebuilding team in the Raiders. The signing of Tuck, who put pen to paper a day after Austin Howard was signed, gave legitimacy to Oakland’s efforts in free agency and opened the doors for the likes of other vets LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew to also choose Oakland as their destination ... without Oakland overpaying. They are all on the back ends of their careers, but they should have enough left in the tank.

About face? Early in his tenure, McKenzie spoke of signing “high character” players with little to no baggage. So it was a surprise when he spent the third day of the draft taking players with questionable pasts, be it legal spats or getting kicked out of school or off a team. It reached a crescendo with this week’s signing of oft-troubled receiver Greg Little. But McKenzie believes he has built a strong enough locker room to withstand a wild card or two. Besides, if a guy can contribute and has convinced McKenzie he has changed, he deserves another shot, right?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the benefits of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ signing of running back Toby Gerhart is also one of the biggest risks.

Gerhart doesn’t have much wear and tear on his body after spending the first four years of his career backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota -- just 276 carries and 77 receptions. But that also means he hasn’t had to carry an offense and there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to do that in Jacksonville.

[+] EnlargeToby Gerhart
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerToby Gerhart, formerly with the Vikings for four seasons, says he's excited to show Jacksonville fans his skills as a starting running back.
Yet coach Gus Bradley doesn’t view the signing as risky.

"We watched his college tape and then we watched his reps that he did get [in Minnesota], that’s really what we’re basing it off of," Bradley said. "And then talking to people that have been with him as a teammate, all those things came together and said, 'Wow this is really clean. This is a great opportunity to get a guy in our locker room that we believe can help us.'

"You still have to do it, but I think he’s really looking forward to the opportunity. I think he’s been waiting for this opportunity and he wants to take advantage of it."

Gerhart has been waiting, and pretty patiently, too. Getting drafted in the second round by the Vikings in 2010 wasn’t an ideal situation for Gerhart, who ran for 3,522 yards and 44 touchdowns in his career at Stanford, including a senior season in which he ran for 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns. He went from being a workhorse to feeling as if he were locked in the barn.

He got 81 carries as a rookie and 109 the following season but totaled just 86 in the last two seasons.

Gerhart said that while he obviously wanted to play more he used the time to learn from one of the NFL’s greatest running backs and treated things the same way as a young quarterback sitting behind a veteran starter.

“It’s been an opportunity to get experience over the years and also learn,” Gerhart said. “I’ve stayed fresh, stayed strong and healthy, and I’m ready for my shot now.”

The encouraging thing is that Gerhart has been productive in the limited work he has gotten, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 7.8 yards per catch. That works out to 5.4 yards per touch on offense, which is similar to the 5.1 yards-per-touch that Maurice Jones-Drew averaged in his eight seasons with the Jaguars. That included three consecutive seasons of at least 1,300 yards rushing, including an NFL-best 1,606 in 2011.

Replacing Jones-Drew, now in Oakland, isn’t going to fall completely to Gerhart. Second-year back Jordan Todman will get a lot of work, and Bradley is optimistic about Denard Robinson being able to hold onto the ball and contribute. The team needs a feature back, though, and the hope is that it’s Gerhart.

He understands if people aren’t sure he can do it, but he’s sure they won’t have doubts for long.

"There’s always a prove-yourself situation, especially coming in to a team," Gerhart said. "I was one of the first running backs signed in free agency. Coming in where Maurice was, there’s definitely going to be that added pressure to prove yourself.

"I haven’t had the opportunity to play a full 16 games as a starters so I think a lot of people are going to wait and see before the jury’s out on me. I’m excited about that and ready to show what I can do."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- So what, exactly, is the Oakland Raiders' reputation across the NFL, according to three of the teams’ more respected free-agent veteran signees?

“Man, the impression was they had a lot of talented players but they couldn’t finish,” receiver James Jones said Tuesday, the first day of the Raiders’ voluntary offseason workout program. Jones spent the first seven years of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers.

Tuck
Jones
Jones
“Obviously, the record speaks for itself. I wasn’t part of the team back then but as we talked today, 4-12 is not good enough. When we played the Raiders in the past, we’re kind of putting that ‘win’ on the board already. Now, everybody’s got to look at their self in the mirror and we’ve got to understand that we really don’t get no respect, and you’re not going to get no respect when you’re 4-12, so we’ve got to go out there and take it this year. And I believe we’ve got the right guys to do it.”

The Raiders have been among the more busy teams since the new league year began on March 11, having signed 12 free agents and acquiring a new quarterback in Matt Schaub in a trade with the Houston Texans.

Granted, most of the new guys are on the backside of their careers, but to a man they believe they still have a lot in the tank, while acknowledging they have a lot to prove.

“You hear, 'This is a great team, in 2009,'" offered running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who had been with the Jacksonville Jaguars since 2006. "Whatever."

There are more chips on these guys’ shoulders, though, than questions ... or whatevers.

"Being a fan of the Raiders," added Jones-Drew, who grew up in the East Bay and still lives in Oakland, "I was always envious of Darren (McFadden) because he got to wear that (silver and black) jersey and he played well, when healthy.

"We brought the right guys in."

Meaning drama-free vets with championship pedigrees, so to speak. And a knack for knowing how to win, as defensive end Justin Tuck's two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants attest.

And yes, Tuck thought the same as Jones when it came to the Raiders, who have not had a winning season since 2002 and are coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons.

"I would say 'talented,' but hadn’t played together as far as knowing how to win," Tuck said of the recent Raiders. "Beating themselves a little bit. Just like the game up (in New Jersey) last year. They had an opportunity to win, but they couldn’t close it out. That’s the M.O., I guess."

That’s what the veterans were brought to Oakland to do -- reverse the course and teach the team how to win.

“That’s our mentality,” said Tuck, who envisions the Raiders making like last season’s Kansas City Chiefs, who were 11-5 a year after going 2-14.

“A lot of people always say you go to Oakland for your career to die. I’m not looking at it like that. I’m looking at it like this is an opportunity to revive a storied franchise in a city with a great fan base behind this football team. The energy and excitement around this football team should be good. I’m excited about it.”
NFL general managers gather their smartest people each winter to analyze rosters, assess options and formulate a plan for the offseason marketplace. In 2014, at least, they made quick work of the running back position.

By now it's no surprise to hear or read about the plummeting value of running backs. No one wants to pay them premium salaries or even spend a first-round draft pick on one. To this conversation, I'd like to add an obvious and clear representation for why.

The information in the fancy line graph, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, is similar to the type of analysis NFL teams use. It shows, in pretty stark terms, how running back production drops off after the age of 27. (Hat tip to ESPN.com editor Brett Longdin for generating the graph.)

 
The red line represents all running backs who have played at least four NFL seasons since 2001, with a minimum average of 75 carries per season. Overall, we see their careers peak at age 27. Afterward, their rushing totals drop by 15 percent in one year, 25 percent in two and almost 40 by the time they are 30.

Most decision-makers -- whether their background was in scouting, accounting or anything in between -- saw that trend as a bad investment. As with any business, they reserve premium contracts for projected growth in production, not a decline.

For comparison's sake, the graph also includes the receiver position (in blue, minimum average of 50 receptions over the same time period). You'll see some fluctuations, but even at age 31, the composite receiver produced a near-identical yardage total as he did at age 27. In other words, it's reasonable to expect a high-level performance into a receiver's early 30s.

Peterson
Peterson
Running backs get no such benefit of the doubt, nor should they from a strict business sense. Even Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson, one of the league's best players at any position, contributed to the curve at age 28 last season. It's true that he had the fifth-most rushing yards (1,266) in the NFL, but he also missed two games and overall fell 40 percent from his 2,097-yard effort in 2012.

That line graph, along with a season that produced its fewest total league-wide rushing yards (57,795) in six seasons, led us to the eye-opening 2014 offseason. Keep in mind that age 27 is the essential point where most players, under the current collective bargaining agreement, become free agents for the first time. At their first opportunity for a payday, the league already views them to be beyond their prime.

As of this week, teams have 177 running backs under contract. Of that group, 128 (72 percent) are 26 or younger. I counted only eight runners over the age of 29. Meanwhile, there was an obvious link between the handful of mid-20s running backs who did receive multiyear contracts this spring: None have been four-year feature backs.

The Detroit Lions will pay Joique Bell (27) the eighth-highest salary for a running back in 2014 ($4.3 million). He has 248 career carries, an average of 62 per season.

Toby Gerhart (27) will receive $4 million from the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has averaged 69 carries per season. Donald Brown (26) also will get $4 million from the San Diego Chargers after totaling 551 carries in five seasons, while Ben Tate (25) will get $3.25 million from the Cleveland Browns after totaling 421 carries in four seasons.

And that's pretty much the list. What about Knowshon Moreno, who is 26 but has 845 career rushes? He got a one-year deal from the Miami Dolphins. Maurice Jones-Drew? He's 29 and has 1,804 career carries. His contract with the Oakland Raiders guarantees him $1.2 million for 2014. He'll earn $2.5 million, assuming he makes the team.

It's fair to expect the trend to continue expanding to the draft. NFL teams didn't draft a single running back in the first round in 2013, and at the moment, ESPN's Scouts Inc. doesn't project one to be selected in the first round this year, either. (Their highest-rated runner, Ohio State's Carlos Hyde, has a mid-second round grade Insider.)

The message is clear: Running backs of this generation picked, well, the wrong generation to be running backs. Teams want them young, cheap and fresh -- and the data makes it difficult to argue their point.
When running back LeGarrette Blount signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers last Friday, it created a need for the New England Patriots, as their backfield now needs depth behind Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden.

Jones-Drew
As it turns out, that need was almost filled before it even became a need, as former Jaguars and new Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew said in an interview with Mad Dog Sports Radio that his final decision came down to the Patriots, Steelers and, of course, Oakland.

There had been some buzz linking Jones-Drew to the Patriots, among other teams, before he signed his three-year, $7.5 million deal with Oakland, and it's interesting to contemplate what he would've brought to the Pats.

Though he's not the same player he was earlier in his career, Jones-Drew is a compact bulldozer who catches the football extremely well. That's something that would bring value to the Patriots' offense.

The team had free-agent running back Michael Bush in for a visit on Tuesday, another player who catches the ball extremely well.

No deal has been reached between the Patriots and Bush at this time, and it's unclear if the team has opted to pursue signing Bush after the visit.

For now, running back remains a need for the Patriots.

One that was almost squared away last week.

The biggest question regarding the Oakland Raiders signing free-agent running back Maurice Jones-Drew to a three-year contract on Friday is this: How exactly do they plan to use him in their retooled offense? As the bellcow? In tandem? As insurance?

Jones-Drew said he was told by the Raiders he was coming in to compete.

"We have different running abilities," he said in a conference call Friday. "But the competition is what's going to make us better. We'll push each other."

He joins a crowded if somewhat unsettled backfield.

Since being the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2008, Darren McFadden has been the Raiders' starter ... when healthy. And Oakland re-signed him to an incentive-laden deal to do just that in 2014, even though he has missed 19 of the Raiders' previous 41 games and has never played more than 13 games in a season.

The Raiders are also high on Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury after being drafted in the sixth round. Plus, they signed Canadian Football League Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets, and the Raiders still have Jeremy Stewart on the roster.

Or, as Murray tweeted:

Jones-Drew, a diminutive three-time Pro Bowler who has a lot of mileage on his powerful legs, has had health issues himself of late. It just so happens that in the past two seasons, those injuries occurred in Oakland.

In 2012, after holding out in the preseason, the 5-foot-8, 205-pound Jones-Drew broke his left foot on the Jaguars' second play from scrimmage against the Raiders in Week 7 and did not play another down all season. He underwent what he termed "major" surgery that offseason.

Last season, Jones-Drew sprained his left ankle on a touchdown-saving flying tackle by Charles Woodson in the first quarter of the Week 2 game.

"It was a hell of a tackle," Jones-Drew said, "there's nothing I can say."

Jones-Drew, 29, missed the rest of that game but played the rest of the season, rushing for 803 yards while averaging a career-low 3.4 yards per carry. His previous low was his 4.2 in 2008.

"I feel like I have a ton left in the tank," he said, and maybe splitting time with McFadden would keep both off the injury report. Or perhaps it limits their efficiency and productivity in smaller-than-usual roles.

Whatever the case may be, Jones-Drew grew up in the East Bay a fan of the Raiders, prepped at high school powerhouse De La Salle and has lived in the Bay Area every offseason since Jacksonville selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft out of UCLA. Playing home games in front of his grandmother now, he said, would be a bonus.

Jones-Drew said the other teams that reached out to him wanted him to join them in a mentor role, or as a backup.

"But the Raiders," he said, "gave me an opportunity to compete.

"It just feels like home."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Though Jaguars general manager David Caldwell never quite closed the door on Maurice Jones-Drew re-signing with the team and finishing his career in Jacksonville, it's now apparent that it was only open a crack.

Jones-Drew said at the end of the 2013 season that he wanted to finish his career in Jacksonville but that the decision would come down to money. He also said he had a number in mind but would not elaborate. The Jaguars were leaning toward a two-year contract, but Jones-Drew privately told people he wanted at least a three-year deal.

Caldwell had very little discussion with Jones-Drew's agent, Adisa Bakari, once the 2013 season ended and said the Jaguars never made a contract offer. He also said the two sides hadn't spoken since the Senior Bowl in late January. The Jaguars' signing of Toby Gerhart in the first few days of free agency is another sign that Jones-Drew wasn't a high priority for the Jaguars.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonMaurice Jones-Drew ends his Jaguars career as the franchise's second-leading career rusher.
They would have gladly re-signed him under the right terms. The three-year deal Jones-Drew got from the Oakland Raiders on Friday was clearly out of the Jaguars' parameters of length of contract and what they were willing to spend.

So Jones-Drew's time in Jacksonville ends with him being the second-leading rusher in franchise history (8,071 yards) and the record-holder in touchdowns scored (81) and rushing touchdowns (68). He led the NFL in rushing in 2011 (1,606 yards) and made three Pro Bowls. His legacy, though, is more than that. He became the face of the franchise and the team's best player for the past five seasons.

But as much success as he had individually, Jones-Drew was not able to carry the Jaguars to the playoffs. Since Fred Taylor was cut after the 2008 season and Jones-Drew became the team's primary ball carrier, the Jaguars went 26-54 and never had a winning season.

His final season with the Jaguars was disappointing. Though he ran for 803 yards and five touchdowns, his average of 3.4 yards per carry was the worst of his career.

Still, Jones-Drew's time in Jacksonville will be remembered fondly, even with his protracted holdout in 2012 that lasted all of training camp and the preseason. When his career ends he should be the next player inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars.

Here are five memorable moments in Jones-Drew's career:

Colts killer: Jones-Drew ran for more yards (1,451) against Indianapolis than any other opponent. The first two 100-yard games of his career came against the Colts (103 and 166 yards in 2006). The second meeting with the Colts that year was a 44-17 victory and the Jaguars ran for 375 yards against the NFL's worst rush defense. Jones-Drew ran for 166 yards and Fred Taylor ran for 131.

Take a knee: Jones-Drew, acting on orders from coach Jack Del Rio, took a knee at the 1-yard line late in a 2009 game against the New York Jets. The touchdown would have put the Jaguars ahead 28-22 with 1:48 to play, but Del Rio was worried that left too much time for the Jets to answer. So he told Jones-Drew to get as close to the goal line as possible and take a knee. The Jaguars ran the clock down and Josh Scobee kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired to give the Jaguars a 24-22 victory. "Sorry to my fantasy owners," Jones-Drew said after the game. "They told me to get as close as I can and take a knee."

Atop the NFL: Jones-Drew led the league in rushing with 1,606 yards in 2011. When you consider what he had to overcome to do that, it's an even more impressive feat. Not only did he battle a knee issue throughout the season, he had to fight through eight-man fronts every week. The Jaguars had cut starting quarterback David Garrard just days before the season began and rookie Blaine Gabbert was forced into action before he was ready to play. Defenses ganged up to stop the run but still couldn't stop Jones-Drew, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Having fun: Jones-Drew clearly enjoyed himself on the football field, especially when he scored. He came up with creative celebrations, such as mimicking taking money out of an ATM after scoring against Kansas City in 2007 (which earned him a $7,500 fine) and imitating LeBron James' pre-game powder toss after a touchdown against Cleveland in 2011.

Blasted: Jones-Drew has earned the reputation as one of the league's best backs at picking up the blitz. It began during his rookie season when he destroyed former San Diego Chargers defensive end Shawne Merriman. The 5-foot-7, 210-pound Jones-Drew pancaked the 6-foot-5, 272-pound Merriman on a play near the goal line during the Jaguars' 24-17 victory in 2007. Jones-Drew's block allowed Garrard to complete an easy touchdown pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis.
IRVING, Texas -- While we have discussed the long-term futures of Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, one player we have not touched on much is DeMarco Murray.

Murray is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. He was named to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns, and catching 53 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown. When Murray has played well and been given a chance to carry the ball, the Cowboys have won.

Murray
But running backs’ values have dropped dramatically in the past few years. If they aren’t Adrian Peterson, they don’t get paid the mega deals. And the guys that have been paid in recent years, like Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew, have taken a downturn.

In 2008, the Cowboys signed Marion Barber to a seven-year deal worth $45 million that included $16 million in guarantees.

Those days are long gone.

The best free-agent deals for running backs so far have been to Donald Brown and Toby Gerhart, who received three-year, $10.5 million deals from the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. Brown has never rushed for more than 645 yards in a season. Gerhart has never rushed for more than 531 yards, though he was playing behind Peterson.

Knowshon Moreno is joining the Miami Dolphins on a one-year, $3 million deal after rushing for 1,038 yards in 2013 for the Denver Broncos. Rashad Jennings received a three-year, $10 million deal from the New York Giants after rushing for 733 yards last season with the Oakland Raiders.

Murray had his best season in 2013, but he missed two games and has yet to play a full season. But his advisors have to see how the market is going for running backs. There wasn’t a running back taken in the first round last year. The top running back chosen in 2012, Trent Richardson (No. 3 overall), was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last season.

Murray will make $1.406 million in 2014 as part of his rookie deal.

The Cowboys could lock him in for another three seasons at a good number and still have plenty in reserve for Smith and Bryant.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers are meeting Friday with LeGarrette Blount and they have added incentive to sign the former Patriots running back before he leaves.

Williams
Blount
There is finally movement when it comes to running backs, one of the few positions that didn't cash in during the first frenzied wave of free agency. As a result, the Steelers don't have as many options when it comes to signing a proven veteran running back to provide depth behind Le'Veon Bell.

Maurice Jones-Drew, who visited the Steelers last week, is visiting Oakland on Friday and the two sides are closing in on a contract, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Jones-Drew is expected to have a new deal a day after the Dolphins signed Knowshon Moreno to a one-year, $3 million contract, per Schefter.

Those two developments may not lead to the Steelers putting an all-out blitz on Blount today but they should have more of a sense of urgency when it comes to signing him. Coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week at the NFL owners meetings that the Steelers intend to sign a proven veteran to back up Bell and there aren't a lot of options if they don't sign Blount.

Whether the two sides can find common ground on money as well as Blount's role with Bell entrenched as the starter remains to be seen.

The Steelers would have to clear salary-cap room to sign Blount but that could be done easily by restructuring linebacker Lawrence Timmons' contract.

Given a back the caliber of Moreno fetched just a one-year deal with decent but not great money bodes well for Blount falling into the range of what the Steelers are willing to pay him.
Three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew is scheduled to make a free-agent visit with the Oakland Raiders on Friday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported.

Jones-Drew
Some might see it as a curious development, in that the Raiders’ current biggest needs are on the interior of the defensive line and at cornerback.

But the bowling ball-like Jones-Drew, who grew up near Oakland and went to high school at powerhouse De La Salle, would also bring explosiveness to the running game ... so long as he stays healthy.

He missed 10 games in 2012 and one last season, after a flying tackle by the Raiders’ Charles Woodson, and is coming off a career-low 3.4 yards per carry average with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He rushed for 803 yards and five touchdowns in 2013.

Still, the Raiders do have questions at running back as they re-signed the oft-injured -- but just as tantalizing and teasing -- Darren McFadden, who has averaged 3.3 yards per carry the past two seasons. They are hoping for big things from Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury after being a sixth-round draft pick. Oakland also signed Kory Sheets, the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup MVP.

Jones-Drew, 29, was a first-team All-Pro in 2011 after leading the league with 1,606 yards rushing. He played for current Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson when Olson was the Jaguars’ assistant head coach/QB coach in 2012.

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