Maurice Jones-Drew is about to be everything you’ve always feared. He is your clown nightmare, and your ant phobia (seriously, that’s a thing).
You were already prepared to pelt him with stones next August during your fantasy draft, for he is the anti-Christ who’s equal parts temptation and disappointment. Now, he could be the new Darren McFadden.
Like McFadden, Jones-Drew has struggled to stay healthy over the past three seasons, although his fight against bruises and breaks isn’t nearly as severe. A healthy 2011 is sandwiched in between a 2010 season when he bailed on his fantasy owners late in the year due to an ankle injury. Then this year a foot injury led to 10 missed games and surgery on Dec. 28, and now he won’t resume any football activities until May at the earliest. For those keeping score at home, that’s a five month recovery time, and therefore early drafters next summer likely won’t be able to have much confidence in MJD’s progress.
So there’s that, and now here’s this other thing which could quickly make Jones-Drew’s situation much worse, and much more McFadden-y next year: Jedd Fisch, the Jaguars’ new offensive coordinator, is planning to install a new zone-blocking scheme.
You know that system as both a blessing, and a means for a running back’s demise. First think rosy, wonderful thoughts and remember that the Texans and Redskins use a zone-blocking scheme, and those two offenses produced running backs who rushed for a combined 3,037 yards in 2012. Their names are Arian Foster and Alfred Morris, and the latter is a rookie who finished second in rushing (all hail Shanny).
A healthy Jones-Drew certainly has equal or even more talent than those two, and we know that because he’s only one season removed from accumulating 1,980 yards, 1,606 of which came on the ground. But it would also be reasonable to say that a healthy McFadden (does not compute) has just as much speed and elusiveness as Foster and Morris. And that’s not wrong.
Beyond his injuries, though, right now you remember McFadden circa 2012 as the problem child of the zone-blocking scheme, a system the Raiders began to install during OTAs last spring under former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp despite McFadden’s history that said zone blocking was a bad idea. It’s a system that requires quick and athletic offensive linemen, and simply put it asks them to block an area, instead of a specific defender. That means having the speed to cover said area quickly, which was often a problem for the Raiders’ offensive line.
Sure, McFadden may have only been healthy for six games in 2011 prior to running in Knapp’s new system, but he was brilliant during those games, averaging 101.7 rushing yards per week and 5.5 per carry. His health improved by McFadden standards this year (he only missed four games…hooray?), but his numbers declined swiftly, as he averaged 58.9 yards per game, and 3.3 per carry. That’s…that’s…(*pukes*).
I don’t cope with change very well. But that’s OK, for I am a mere human, and not a football human. I’m allowed to demand that only a specific brand of orange juice appears in my fridge at all times, and refuse to drink all imposter brands. Jones-Drew, meanwhile, is not a normal human, as we need more from him. But now his situation is nearly identical to the one McFadden faced last fall.
So combine this scheme change with the uncertainty of his injury, and he could quickly turn into your dark passenger during the 2013 season. Maybe not in the Dexter sense, and instead he’ll just make you hate everything in the world.
Or for those who approach life with much more positive energy (teach me), you could find value in Jones-Drew while fools like me let him fall. You’re welcome.