Raiders' Jones-Drew Looks Renewed

Veteran running back, who had 40-yard run vs. Packers, is lighter and fitter in first season with Oakland

Maurice Jones-Drew took the handoff from Matt Schaub and headed toward the middle of the Packers’ defensive line.

But when that avenue was closed, Jones-Drew bounced to the right, made his way through a crowd and then burst into the open field, pulling away for a 40-yard touchdown run.

Though there is still much to question about the Raiders’ offense after three exhibition games, Jones-Drew appears to have regained the form that made him one of the NFL’s best and most versatile running backs for the Jacksonville Jaguars for eight seasons.

In the 31-21 loss to Green Bay Friday night, Jones-Drew carried the ball three times for 45 yards. This preseason he’s carried 11 times for 67 yards and has three catches for 36.

After averaging a career-worst 3.4 yards per carry in 2013 for Jacksonville, he appears to have regained his quickness and speed, and looks fit once again.

A trio of Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden and Latavius Murray has given the Raiders a potentially formidable group of ballcarriers for 2014.

Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said recently that Jones-Drew “looks like a different player” than he did in Jacksonville.

Jones-Drew is about 15 pounds lighter than he was in 2013 and feels completely healthy again in his shoulders, knees and legs after injuries in recent years.

As he demonstrated against the Packers, the 5-foot-7 Drew can run inside with power yet still have breakaway speed once he gets through traffic.

“He’s got such a low center of gravity,” Olson told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group.  “He’s extremely difficult to tackle because of his height and his power. He’s got ridiculous power in those legs.”

Jones-Drew obviously is looking forward to running the football this season with McFadden. On Twitter recently, he posted a picture of himself with McFadden, labeling it “The Dash Brothers.”

While the Raiders still have some big question marks about their passing game – No. 1 quarterback Matt Schaub has been largely ineffective and now has a sore throwing elbow – the running game looks as if it might be much more dangerous in 2014.

When he posted his “Dash Brothers” photo, in fact, Jones-Drew added this message: “More to come.”

The Raiders have one remaining exhibition game, this Thursday against the Seahawks at Coliseum at 7 p.m., with the season opener now just around the corner on Sept. 7 at the New York Jets.

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