We've all heard about the ongoing contract dispute between Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jacksonville Jaguars' front office. It comes down to a couple of contradicting beliefs. Jones-Drew believes that he deserves more money after leading the NFL in run yards last season, and the Jaguars believe he should honor the remaining two years on his contract before they begin negotiating a new deal.
Whether Jones-Drew actually deserves more money is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that the Jaguars aren't budging, and Jones-Drew has quickly been forgotten by many Jaguars fans.
Part of Jones-Drew's image issues arise from the unforeseen-but-foreseen-by-some high level of play from backup running back Rashad Jennings. Since becoming the de facto starting running back, Jennings has shown the ability to carry the workload formerly supported by Jones-Drew.
In the Jaguars' preseason debut, Jennings carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. I realize it's just one game, but when you're averaging over 4 yards per carry, you're doing something right.
There also seems to be a perception that Jennings is more explosive than Maurice Jones-Drew. Jennings has breakaway speed that doesn't seem to be available to Jones-Drew. Jennings has the ability to break a run out wide, and run off into the sunset. Jones-Drew, on the other hand, is more likely to break a run inside, grinding out a few yards after contact is made.
Maurice Jones-Drew will almost certainly play for the Jaguars in 2012, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that he owns the starting job. Rashad Jennings is a versatile back with a lot to give, and he's been in camp while Maurice Jones-Drew has been pouting holding out in hope of securing a better contract.
At this time last year, it would have been ludicrous to believe that Maurice Jones-Drew could be an unpopular Jaguars player. One ill-timed holdout combined with a more than adequate backup has brought that impossibility into being. Maurice Jones-Drew isn't hated by Jaguars fans, but I certainly get the feeling that fans are beginning move on from the idea that he's the face of the Jaguars, and to be honest, I am too.