Jones-Drew proving to be NFL's most versatile player

  • By Thomas George
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Even at 5-foot-7, Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew can sure pack a wallop.

Maurice Jones-Drew earned his bye week, especially with his 125-yard rushing, two-touchdown tango on Sunday at Denver. He earned it by leading the Jaguars through six games in rushing yards (301) and touchdowns (five). He leads all AFC running backs in receptions with 21.

He earned it by helping Jacksonville reach 3-3 against opponents with a combined record of 25-10.

All six of the Jaguars' games have been against AFC teams.

Four of them have been against each of the AFC's current divisional leaders.

Jones-Drew said he will entertain family on Sunday, fire up the satellite dish and watch all of the NFL action. He has a rooting interest -- his fantasy team is 3-3 after six weeks, just like his real-life Jaguars.

Donald Miralle / Getty Images
LaDainian Tomlinson goes first in most fantasy drafts, but reality says Maurice Jones-Drew has accumulated more yards since his arrival in the NFL in 2006.
Most all-purpose yards in NFL since 2006
Rk Player Team Yards
1 Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars 4,819
2 LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers 4,801
3 Frank Gore 49ers 4,438
4 Brian Westbrook Eagles 4,429
5 Josh Cribbs Browns 4,214
6 Steven Jackson Rams 4,198
7 Wes Welker Patriots 4,106
8 Jerious Norwood Falcons 4,095
9 Leon Washington Jets 3,768
10 Devin Hester Bears 3,586
11 Reggie Bush Saints 3,402
12 Larry Johnson Chiefs 3,373
13 Nate Burleson Seahawks 3,217
Streeter Lecka / Getty Images
Jones-Drew ranks near the top of other major statistical categories in the same time period.
Most touchdowns since 2006
Rk Player Team TDs
1 LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers 53
2 Marion Barber Cowboys 34
3 Terrell Owens Cowboys 33
4 Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars 31
5 Brian Westbrook Eagles 29
Most rushing touchdowns since 2006
Rk Player Team TDs
1 LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers 47
2 Marion Barber Cowboys 28
3 Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars 27
4 Clinton Portis Redskins 24
5t Larry Johnson Chiefs 23
5t Joseph Addai Colts 23
Most receptions by a running back since 2006
Rk Player Team Rec.
1 Reggie Bush Saints 202
2 Brian Westbrook Eagles 181
3 Steven Jackson Rams 181
4 Frank Gore 49ers 136
5 LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers 134
6 Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars 107
7 Kevin Faulk Patriots 103
8 Kevin Jones Bears 95

There will not be a player on the field this weekend, however, who is equal to Jones-Drew as a jack-of-all-trades, all-purpose running back. Only two -- LaDainian Tomlinson (53) and Marion Barber (34) -- have scored more touchdowns than Jones-Drew's 31 since he entered the league as a second-round pick in 2006, the 60th selection overall, from UCLA. He is the only player in the league to have gained 2,000-plus combined yards in each of the last two seasons.

At 5-foot-7, 208 pounds (his official height listed is generous), this 23-year-old wrecking ball of a running back is the NFL's most versatile player. He is a capable every-down back. He is a third-down back. A goal-line back. A blocker. A pass catcher. A short-yardage runner. A kickoff returner. A punt returner.

"Maurice is a top competitor," Jaguars general manager James Harris said. "He is a tough, hard-nosed runner who can run over you but has the finesse to make you miss. He just might be the toughest competitor in the league at the position right now. He plays the game for the love of the game. He shows up. We don't expect from him now -- we know what we are going to get from him.

"You hear this phrase from time to time, but it's true about Maurice -- he is a football player."

Jones-Drew surveyed several Week 7 games and picked the running back in each most reminiscent of him:

For Minnesota-Chicago, he chose Bears rookie Matt Forte. For Tennessee-Kansas City, it was Titans rookie Chris Johnson. The Baltimore-Miami selection was the Dolphins' Ronnie Brown. The Denver-New England choice was Denver's Michael Pittman. The San Francisco-Giants game was the 49ers' Frank Gore, and the Cleveland-Washington game was the Redskins' Clinton Portis.

Jones-Drew was reminded that none of those players perform even half of the multiple roles he does.

"Hey, but here is what we have in common -- those guys will stick their nose in there every time," Jones-Drew said. "You can find backs who are versatile. You can find those who can catch the ball. But not every running back likes to stick his nose in there. It's tough at the position, because, if you are doing it right, you are getting hit on every play.

"I was the third running back as a junior on my high school team. My coaches told me that if I was going to get on the field, I had to find a lot of different ways to do it. So, that is what I have been doing since then. People always said I was too short, a lot of people in the NFL were scared of my height, but leverage is the key in the game of football. When you're blocking someone, when you're running the ball, the lowest man wins. My height with my strength is a positive."

The single player most like him that he will watch most closely on his bye, fantasy-football-filled weekend?

That would be a player in the San Diego-Buffalo bout.

"That would be Marshawn Lynch of the Bills," Jones-Drew said. "We grew up together. His running style is similar. He runs through contact. He stays on the field. He has shown like me how hard work can pay off. That is a guy I would always want to do battle with."

Jones-Drew's peers are saying similar things about him.

They walk up to him after games and share their thinking about how hard he plays. Amazing considering that Jones-Drew has played in 37 games and made only one career start. Fred Taylor remains the Jaguars' starting running back, but Jones-Drew gets his cracks (since 2006, Taylor has 568 touches of the ball, Jones-Drew 505).

And if you think this would be frustrating for a player as competitive as Jones-Drew, you are right.

"It is frustrating because you want the football more, but it is all balanced by helping the team and fulfilling a role," he said. "We all are recognized when the team does well. It's all about staying humble."

Humble, but confident. Driven to prove, he said, that he should have been the first pick in the 2006 draft rather than Houston Texans end Mario Williams. Insisting on playing football now the way he has always played it, as a multi-purpose, multi-dimensional threat.

He recognizes that more people are noticing now.

"I'm really most proud that people are beginning to recognize that I can be an every-down back," Jones-Drew said. "All of the other parts of the game are great, but just to be known as a guy who can stay in there for all three downs and do the job means a lot."

He checked his fantasy team stats.

"Got to have a big game from Brandon Jacobs this week," Jones-Drew said of the Giants running back. "He's my back on Sunday."

Jones-Drew picked the league's biggest, most bruising, most powerful running back as his own for Sunday. A guy who he says competes and "sticks his nose in there."

Just like this fantasy owner.



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