He has a big new contract, one that makes him one of the highest-paid running backs in the game.
He has big expectations, taking over as the team's full-time starter after the release of longtime Jaguars running back Fred Taylor.
And then there are those big guns, arms that look almost as big as his trademark thick legs.
|Maurice Jones-Drew plays at 205 pounds but packs a wallop. (Getty Images)|
"They are bigger," he said. "I'm 215 now. This is the time I tend to get a little bigger."
Don't think it's because he's now the feature back on a team that loves to run the football. Jones-Drew is bigger because of the intense training he's undergone, as he always does, at this time of the year.
The burden of being the man for the first time in his career won't cause him to change a thing.
"I can play at this weight, but I will play at 205 or so like I always have," he said. "This has nothing to do with taking over as the starter. I'm not changing what I do because of that."
When the Jaguars decided in February to release Taylor, the longest-tenured Jaguars player, it meant it was time to hand over the starting job to Jones-Drew, who is entering his fourth season.
That's a risk for two reasons. Taylor was a popular player in the community and in the locker room and he also still had pop in his legs. Taylor and Jones-Drew were a nice 1-2 punch.
Without Taylor, it's all on Jones-Drew, who is listed at 5-7 but is probably an inch smaller. That led to questions about whether Jones-Drew could handle a heavy load of carries. He has never carried more than 200 times in any of his three seasons.
In 47 career games, he has carried the ball 20 or more times in a game just five times. Two of those games came late last year when Taylor was out with an injury. Against the Indianapolis Colts he ran 20 times for 91 yards and against the Baltimore Ravens he ran 23 times for 78 yards. He also fumbled three times in those games, leading to speculation that the heavier load took a toll on his smaller body.
"That's because a lot of people don't think I can do it because I'm smaller than the other backs," Jones-Drew said. "But I'm also heavier than a lot of the other guys who are taller than me. But that's OK. People can say what they want. It gets old after a while, but you can't please everybody. I've done it at every level. Why can't I do it here? Plus, this isn't the same game it used to be where guys are just carrying it 30 times up the middle. It's not about the load you carry. It's about the touches. Brian Westbrook succeeds without getting those power carries. Even Adrian Peterson gets the ball a lot of different ways. The game has changed."
Stats don't lie, though. Jones-Drew had 137 carries that came on his first 10 carries in games. He averaged 4.5 yards on those carries. On carries 11 through 20, he averaged 3.5 per rush on those 55 rushes. He also averaged 4.4 per carry in the first half to 4.0 in the second.
Meaningful? We'll see.
Counting his 62 receptions last season and 20 returns, Jones-Drew touched it 279 times and seemed to do just fine from a handle-the-load standpoint. But the fumbles late -- five in the last five games with two lost -- are concerning.
"In the Colts game I was going along just fine and then I sprained my knee in that game," Jones-Drew said. "And I played the next week. Nobody said a thing about that. It's not about the carries. It's about getting touches and staying on the field."
The 2008 season was to be the final year of his rookie contract. But the Jaguars opted to give him a long-term extension last month. Jones-Drew signed a four-year, $31-million extension with $17.5 million in guaranteed money.
That's big money for a back that has never been the primary starter.
"We believe he's the feature guy and it's his time," said Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio.
I would have waited. Why not see what he can do as the feature back for half a season and then pay him? The Jaguars rushed to pay quarterback David Garrard last year after his impressive 2007 season and he fell off last season.
Not learning their lesson, they did it again with Jones-Drew. Even people close to Jones-Drew were surprised the Jaguars didn't wait, although Jones-Drew was staying away from the team's offseason work because he didn't have a new deal.
"People were questioning my love when I was staying away," he said. "They didn't care what I was doing. The media tried to portray it that I was bad for that. I put my life on the line every time I step on the field and I should get compensated fairly for that. You want what you're worth. If you're the best postman, you want to be paid like the best postman. It's a business." Which is why I told him I would have waited.
"They waited last year and it cost them," Jones-Drew said. "And it could have again."
If he plays the way the Jaguars think he will, and the way he thinks he can, that contract could prove to be a major bargain.
The little man with the big guns seems poised for a big season.