Rashad Jennings is a big dude. 6' 1", 231 lbs big. But he's not just a plodding bruiser of a back. Jennings is surprisingly athletic. At the 2009 NFL combine Jennings ran a 4.53 40, and at 6.86 seconds was only .04 seconds off the best 3 cone drill for all running backs at the combine. He broad jumped 10 feet even, pretty impressive for such a big man, and he put up more bench press reps at 29 than any other running back.
Despite his impressive showing at the combine Jennings, out of tiny Liberty College, wasn't drafted until the 7th round by Jacksonville in the 2009 NFL draft. There he found himself stuck behind one of the NFL's premier backs, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Jennings languished on the bench for long stretches of time and watched the MJD show. Still, when given a chance, Jennings thrived, rushing for 661 yards on only 123 attempts in his first two years, a stellar 5.4 yards per carry average. Jennings injured his knee in the preseason of 2011 and missed the entire year. When he came back in 2012 he was not the same back. Given a chance to start after MJD went down, Jennings stumbled, averaging only 2.8 yards per carry. After the 2012 season the Jaguars decided to move on, and Jennings was signed to an inexpensive free agent deal with the Raiders.
What a difference a year made. Looking fully healthy again, Jennings unfortunately found himself stuck behind another feature back, Darren McFadden. However, when McFadden went down, Jennings stepped up, posting career best numbers of 163 carries for 733 yards and 6 TDs, and adding 36 catches for another 292 yards. After taking over the starting job, over a seven game stretch Jennings racked up 584 yards and 6 TDs while adding 22 catches for 187 yards and looking every bit one of the best backs in the NFL. By the end of the year rumor was the Raiders were ready to cut ties with Darren McFadden and wanted to sign Jennings, now an unrestricted free agent, to a new deal. To date that deal has not been worked out.
One of the things Jets fans love about Chris Ivory is he runs tough, finishing 2013 with the second best yards after contact average in the NFL. You know who was the best? Rashad Jennings. He runs a little like Ivory, with a chip on his shoulder. He is a little faster and a little shiftier than Ivory, with better ability to make people miss. He also offers something Ivory does not. Jennings has excellent hands and receiving skills, a skill set sorely lacking in Ivory. Jennings could make Marty Mornhinweg's offense hum, as he presents the kind of dual threat that forces a defense to account for him on passing plays. Jennings is also a willing and competent pass blocker, something Jets' backs were awful at last year.
The biggest drawbacks with Jennings are his age and concussions. Jennings will turn 29 years old later this month, so he is a lot closer to the end of his career than the beginning. NFL backs don't last too long past 30 in general. Tempering the age risk somewhat is the relatively little amount of tread on his tires, as Jennings has spent almost his entire career as a backup. Still, a long term contract with cap hits past the first two years would not be advisable. Jennings has also missed time from concussions in the past, something that heightens his risk for head injuries going forward.
I've included a highlight video of Jennings 2013 with the Raiders. Take a look. Do you think the Jets should pursue Rashad Jennings?