The Jacksonville Jaguars' offense has run through Maurice Jones-Drew since he took over the starting role in 2009, but his body may have started breaking down after all the years of constant pounding.
Jones-Drew has been run into the ground since becoming the starting running back. He is seventh among active running backs with almost 1,600 career rushing attempts, and more than 1,000 of the rushes have come since 2009.
He wasn't just the focal point of the offense; Jones-Drew was accountable for the the majority of it.
Counting his 343 rushes and 43 receptions in 2011, Jones-Drew had his hands on the ball on almost 53 percent of the team's plays.
That trend continued last season as he was responsible for 76 percent of Jacksonville's rushing attempts through the first five games.
Jones-Drew was the engine that kept the Jaguars offense running, but the high mileage on his tires could be to blame for the engine breaking down.
All the touches caught up to him last year, as he suffered a season-ending foot injury early in the Jaguars Week 7 game against the Oakland Raiders. The team hoped the injury would heal itself, but Jones-Drew ultimately underwent surgery in December to repair the injury, according to an ESPN.com report.
Despite undergoing surgery to repair the mid-foot fracture, according to Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times Union, Jones-Drew still has plenty of time to recover and return to being one of the league's best running backs.
It's been a long road, though, as the delay to undergo surgery has meant he hasn't been able to participate in offseason workouts thus far.
Although he hasn't been on the field, he's been steadily progressing throughout the offseason. The walking boot he was in was removed in late March, and he began jogging soon after, according to Gene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union.
Eugene Frenette @GeneFrenette
Jones-Drew says he started jogging lightly on Monday in rehab from Liz-Franc injury, which Mularkey denied was nature of condition2013-4-2 16:59:27
He's continued to progress and is slowly getting closer to being 100 percent.
Ryan O'Halloran @ryanohalloran
RB Maurice Jones-Drew said he's making progress, ran 3/4 speed today for a bit. #jaguars2013-5-13 18:35:17
Jones-Drew will continue his rehabilitation in Miami for the next two weeks with Pete Bommarito, who has worked with ex-Jaguar Fred Taylor in the past. First-year head coach Gus Bradley told Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union that he wanted Jones-Drew in attendance at the minicamps as the team installed the offense, but that phase of the offseason is over.
Bradley said, per Stellino:
“I said we need you here and he did that and he said, ‘OK, now that we’ve all the installs done let’s take the next step.’ ’’
Jones-Drew is expected back by June, but it's unclear whether he will be ready for July's training camp, according to Stellino's report.
Jones-Drew is doing all the right things to recover from the injury to ensure he returns to form, but the Jaguars are also doing their part to make sure they load the offense with as much talent as possible to give him the chance to succeed.
That began with first-round pick Luke Joeckel, who immediately steps in as the team's right tackle. This should allow for for running lanes and give all the team's running backs, including Jones-Drew, chances to run free.
The Jaguars also won't rely almost exclusively on Jones-Drew to move the ball. The team added players this offseason who could develop into playmakers who should take some of the pressure off Jones-Drew.
The most notable of these additions is fifth-round pick Denard Robinson. The Jaguars plan to give Robinson 10-15 touches a game, according to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports. By doing so, the Jaguars are lessening the amount of punishment Jones-Drew takes, which could lengthen his career.
Alex Marvez @alexmarvez
David Caldwell praised Denard Robinson for burst at RB at rookie minicamp. Plan is Denard receiving 10-15 touches a game & returning kicks2013-5-8 00:38:56
Jones-Drew has also always been a player who's been motivated by outside forces; his jersey number acts as a reminder of the number of teams that passed over him in the first round. He is entering the final year of his contract, which will drive him to perform well to earn the biggest contract possible.
If he continues to recover from surgery the way he has, there is no reason to believe he won't return as one of the league's top running backs. The Jaguars won't solely rely on him to be the entire offense anymore, but he will still play a vital role for the young team.