Jaguars' Jennings could be more than just a handcuff

Posted Aug. 03, 2011 @ 2:23 p.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

The Jaguars haven't said RB Maurice Jones-Drew's load will be lighter this season after bone-on-bone contact in his injured knee forced the franchise back to shut it down for the final two games in 2010 and undergo surgery this past January.

MJD, whom the coaching staff basically has to drag by the neck off the field anytime it wants him to get a quick blow, wouldn't think of it.

Still, it is a topic absolutely worth considering in the coming weeks as it becomes time to stack your draft board.

Bone-on-bone contact in the knee is a frightening condition for any athlete, but especially for a power rusher like Jones-Drew who relies so much on lower-body strength to push the pile and fight for the tough yards.

I would be shocked if the Jaguars don't take it easy on him in the preseason — and perhaps early in the season — to make sure the knee is where it needs to be.

Enter Rashad Jennings.

The third-year back out of Liberty became a familiar name in fantasy circles late last season, eclipsing the 100-yard mark twice in the final four weeks.

At 6-1, 228 pounds, Jennings is a bigger, change-of-pace back who possesses arguably the best hands on the Jaguars roster. While he is at his best running between the tackles, Jenning's speed and quickness were also on display for his 74-yard TD gallop against the Raiders in Week 14, when he evaded one tackle in the backfield before running through CB Stanford Routt and turning on the afterburners down the left sideline.

Although Jones-Drew is an exceptional blocker and receiver out of the backfield, the Jaguars often opted for Jennings on third down last season. He also was a bigger part of the team's red-zone packages, finishing the season only one rushing TD behind Jones-Drew.

In fact, as valuable as Jones-Drew was to the Jaguars last season, his five rushing TDs were the lowest total of his career, in large part due to the emergence of Jennings and Pro Bowl TE Marcedes Lewis.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the Jaguars are preparing to follow the likes of the Panthers, Chiefs and Patriots — all teams that have gone away from a one-man backfield — nor am I saying that Jones-Drew is not still a bona fide fantasy star.

But I do think it is in Jacksonville's best interest to continue increasing the role of Jennings, who one AFC scout told me has the talent to be a starter in the league.

Jacksonville faces three of last season's top five run defenses the first half of the season. For the Jaguars, having a rugged option like Jennings to keep MJD fresh will be beneficial.

If you're planning on targeting "Pocket Hercules" in your fantasy draft, grabbing Jennings as a handcuff should be a no-brainer.

Beyond that, I have a funny feeling this could be the season where Jennings brings more value to the table than just as a handcuff.