Now that there is a new quarterback in Jacksonville, what does this mean for Leonard Fournette and his role with the Jaguars this coming season?
After hearing what Jaguars Executive Vice-President Tom Coughlin had to say last week following the announcement of Nick Foles becoming the team’s new quarterback, you get the sense a lot is riding on what Leonard Fournette can do the football field.
If you follow the third-year running back on social media, you have seen the hard work the former first-round pick in putting in, the time and the effort to get in playing shape and the dedication to focusing on football.
Hopefully, as what can be described as a tumultuous 2018 season, filled with injuries and displeasure from Coughlin about Fournette’s off-field behavior, things will come together again for the team’s featured running back.
They have to. There isn’t much in the cupboard for the Jaguars, who have David Williams and Thoms Rawls on the roster. T.J. Yeldon is no longer here. Corey Grant is no longer on the roster (but I hope the team can re-sign him). Mid-season addition Carlos Hyde was released prior to free agency.
The Jaguars are a team in flux at the position and with Foles throwing passes and offensive coordinator John DiFilippo drawing up plays, this offense – the one predicated on running the football – could look a lot different in 2019.
Actually, it should. Fournette was the main cog in an offense that scored over 24 points a game in 2017, but too many times he faced eight men in the box. Last season, he never got healthy enough to scramble for 100 yards and dealt with injuries and a suspension that forced him to miss games.
Now, there is a new chapter to be written and a third season in black and teal for Fournette to show the Jaguars 2018 was an anomaly.
“With Leonard, a prepared Leonard coming into camp with a mindset that he discussed and we talked about … I have full confidence in him,” Coughlin said last Thursday. “He does have some things he’s got to prove when he comes back about his preparation, but he’s a young, young player, he loves football, had an outstanding year, had a very disappointing year, and I think he wants to — we want him to be a great player and I think he’s in the same mindset.”
Fournette’s weight was an issue last season as was his conditioning. He looked big coming back from a hamstring injury that cost him almost half of the season. A suspension for fighting cost him another game.
Per Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com, “Fournette missed six full games and half of two others with a right hamstring injury in the first eight weeks of the season, and there was mounting frustration inside the organization about the length of his absence.
“The Jaguars built the offense around a power-run game and had a hard time functioning consistently without him on the field.”
The Jaguars have not added a running back in free agency so far. The team may explore adding depth at the position in the NFL Draft. Everything, however, still filters through No. 27 in this offense until we see otherwise.
“Obviously you’ve got to have people who can back up and perform in similar capacities if in fact, something does happen, but that is true of every position,” Coughlin said. “You have to have people that can play the game if those that are penciled in as first-line players aren’t able to go.”
If Fournette can come into camp – OTAs especially – at his college playing weight of somewhere around 223 pounds and shows dedication to the game and his team, then all is forgiven and he is still viewed as a cornerstone piece the team can build around.
If he comes back and does not show maturity on and off the field, then the Jaguars may have a problem to once again deal with.
This team and fan base is hoping for the 2017 version of Fournette. The version from last season means the Jaguars have a huge question mark at the running back position entering this season.