Del Rio to evaluate Jones-Drew's role

The Oakland Raiders’ new head coach Jack Del Rio has a lot of decisions ahead of him, and none bigger than the roles of many current players.

One player in question is veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew who he worked with when both of them were in Jacksonville with the Jaguars.

“Certainly, this is a fine young man that played great for me in our time together in Jacksonville,” Del Rio said about Jones-Drew at this weekend’s NFL Scouting Combine. “A special young man, I have a lot of respect for him.”

Jones-Drew was signed last offseason to a three-year deal worth $7.5 million, but struggled in his first season in the Silver & Black. The soon-to-be 30-year-old running back rushed for just 96 yards on 43 attempts in 12 games. The Bay Area native really wasn’t a big factor in the offense, but Del Rio says it’s too early to say what his role will be next season.

“I would say that that’s something that we’ll continue to look at, in terms of who is going to be on the roster, who’s going to be challenging for spots on the roster, who’s going to earn what particular role,” Del Rio said. “It’s way too early in the process to start getting into that. I think it’s all being evaluated.”

That didn’t stop the veteran coach from asking his former player if he can be the back he was so used to seeing in Jacksonville.

“He came to see me and wanted to welcome me and say hello, and that was one of my questions,” Del Rio said. “Can you be explosive again? We need to know whether that can happen again. We’ll find out.”

While he is familiar with Jones-Drew, he knows he must evaluate the team and put the best players on the field that gives the team the best chance to succeed.

“I obviously have a lot of respect for him, but that’s part of the process as we go through this, to make sure that we’re putting out the best product we can on the field,” Del Rio said.

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