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Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew Has Lost a Step

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Maurice Jones-Drew has been one of the most exciting backs in the league since he came into the league back in 2006. He has had a countless number of highlight moments, whether it be the time he lit up the eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts with 166 rushing yards during his rookie season, the time he put Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman on his backside in 2007, or when he gashed a Tennessee defense for a career-high 186 yards in 2010.

Despite a nasty contract negotiation last year, Maurice Jones-Drew has been a true fan favorite among Jacksonville Jaguars fans for years. Fans have loved the way he fearlessly attacks the line of scrimmage, fights for extra yardage, on top of his hilarious touchdown celebrations. He has been the face of the Jaguars ever since the team released Fred Taylor in 2009.

Unfortunately, it seems that father time has caught up to the diminutive MJD.

Over the first three games of the season, Jones-Drew has 115 total rush yards, averaging a mere 2.6 yards-per-carry - by far the lowest average of his career. Granted, the season is still young and he could eventually hit his stride and be the MJD of the past. It could happen.

However, realistically, it probably won't happen.

For starters, Jacksonville lacks a reliable, proven starting quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is circling the drain, Chad Henne may be in his final season as an NFL quarterback, and Ricky Stanzi seemingly will not be given an opportunity. Not to mention, the interior offensive line has been atrocious this year.

One thing seems apparent when it comes to MJD's game this season - he lost his "fight." He lost his desire to be the best. He doesn't run the ball with a purpose anymore. It seems like he's running the ball because he has to, rather than because he wants to. Watching his demeanor on the sidelines during blowout losses, he is expressionless; it is almost as if he doesn't care anymore. He did admit just a few weeks ago that he questioned whether he could continue being an NFL running back anymore.

At 5'7", 210 pounds, Jones-Drew is a brick of a human being. However, there is a reason that running backs retire faster than any other position - they take more wear and tear than any other position on the field. MJD has north of 1600 carries in his career. Outside of touchdown runs, that is nearly 1600 times he has been slammed to the ground or sat on by 300-pound linemen. The human body can only take so much.

On top of all of this, he doesn't have that trademark burst anymore.

Many expected MJD to have a big year despite how bad the team around him is, if for nothing else but the fact that he's in a contract year. This was the year he was supposed to audition for that last Grade-A contract.

Has MJD lost a step? Without a doubt.

After the season ends, he will likely get another gig elsewhere. He may want to sign as a backup running back for a perennial playoff contender in hopes of winning a ring before hanging up his cleats for good. But the days of MJD being looked at as one of the best backs in the league are over.

It was a good run.

Matt Gonzales is a Jacksonville native who has been following the Jaguars for the last decade. He graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in Journalism and is a contributing freelance writer for both Yahoo Sports and Cover32.com.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattgonzales25.

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