The Jacksonville Jaguars head to mandatory minicamp starting Tuesday with the biggest question on offense, production from Leonard Fournette, still a mystery.
After watching the Jacksonville Jaguars over the course of the last three weeks, I am not as concerned about the passing game as I once was. I still have questions about the running game, most notably the performance of Leonard Fournette and how he will perform for the mandatory three days on the practice fields outside TIAA Bank Field.
Which Fournette shows up. The one who told the media he has a clean slate with the organization and is committed to a better season in 2019? Or will it be the Fournette of last year, who seemed disinterested at times about the franchise and while injured for half of the season, did not look as dominant upon his return to the field?
This is a crossroads season for the former LSU star. Yes, I and other local writers (and national ones as well) keep beating this topic into the ground, but until we see Leonard Fournette come right out and prove he is a leader by example, the doubt will continue. Everything before was voluntary. The pass has already been given. Now, let’s see if the maturity on and off the field is present in these three days of work.
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"“Fournette has missed the past five OTAs. While they are voluntary, Fournette was the one player who needed 100 percent attendance,” writes Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com."
The offense needs the Fournette who rushed for 1,040 yards in his rookie season and the bullish back who ran through the middle of the line with authority. What the running game does not need is the former first-round pick coming up lame or injured because that has been his M.O. this past season.
Can Fournette stay healthy for 16 games? Can he improve on his average per carry, which hovers around 3.7 yards per touch? An improved offensive line will help, but the bulk of the work must be done by the running back himself.
"“His issues last season were well-documented and Fournette had to have a productive offseason, especially with new OC John DeFilippo saying Fournette would be ‘a major reason for where our offense goes,'” DiRocco added.“Fournette didn’t completely know the previous offense by the end of his rookie year, so he doesn’t have the best track record in that area. He needs to have a good minicamp to gain some momentum heading into training camp.”"
If the Jaguars run the football as they did in 2017, given DeFilippo will add some new tweaks to the system, this could be a huge year for Fournette. The running back room is better than it was the previous season with the additions of Alfred Blue, rookie Ryquell Armstead, Thomas Rawls, and Benny Cunningham. Three running backs figure to battle for two spots on the roster.
When Fournette spoke to the media during OTAs, he preached about his excitement of putting the 2018 season behind him. His running backs coach, Terry Robiskie, talked about a man who wanted to show he could be the player who wants to bring a Lombardi Trophy to Jacksonville.
Now, after all the talk and questions why he was not a full participant in OTAs, it’s time to prove his actions match the words of the player and coaches.
The one thing that is different this season is Jacksonville does not have a true fullback to work with.
The Jaguars have speed on the outside at wide receiver and what appears to be better health on the offensive line. The tight ends are not flashy, but the unit should be better this season. If Fournette answers the challenges being set for him, then this question is a non-factor heading into the 2019 season.