After being held back due to an injury in 2018, the former LSU star, Leonard Fournette seems primed for a breakout year.
Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has gone through plenty of documented adversity since being drafted fourth overall by the team in 2017. Whether it be injuries, lack of control, or simply inability, the running back has been through it all.
Now entering his third year in the league, the issues of reported tardiness, hamstring injuries, and lack of burst and decisiveness seemed to be fading away. While it may take a minute for Fournette to get going through the season, as of right now, he is off to a fantastic start.
In 2018, Fournette missed a staggering eight games due to a hamstring injury and a suspension which stemmed from an on-field boxing match the running back had with a member of the Buffalo Bills. Last season, Fournette rushed for a mere 439 yards (3.3 yards-per-carry) and five touchdowns.
In a new offense which finds ways to get him the ball in more creative ways, Fournette is off to a great start. Against the Chiefs, the running back carried the ball 13 times rushing for 66 yards (5.3 yards-per-carry), and had four receptions for 28 yards. While those statistics aren’t exciting, it was how he got those yards which point to his ability and change in mindset.
Into the film room:
Free at last. After not being very utilized in the passing game in his first couple of years in the NFL (78 targets in 21 games), Fournette got his opportunity last week against the Chiefs (six targets). On a simple screen, Fournette quickly makes Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark miss before turning upfield in a decisive manner gaining 11 yards on the play.
This play stands out for two reasons. For one, Fournette’s ability to make a man miss isn’t exactly what you think of when you envision his playstyle, but the most important aspect of this play is his ability to quickly make a turn upfield and gain momentum to turn what probably should have been a loss of two yards into a first down.
Fournette will get plenty of targets in the passing game this season. If you extrapolate his six targets over 16 games, he will net 96 total targets, which is a dramatic change in the offense, and his utilization.
Here, Fournette shows off his vision. In years past this run would go for one, maybe two yards because he would have initially attempted to ride up the backside of the interior offensive line. Instead, Fournette sees the hole to his left and hits it with finesse.
In order to be successful, Fournette must improve his vision, especially without a fullback. He does so here, effortlessly.
Similar to the previous clip, Fournette shows off his vision to hit the hole and gain a first down on third-and-three. Running perfectly behind the crease set up by Jaguars offensive linemen Andrew Norwell and Brandon Linder, Fournette is able to gain 15 yards.
However, this isn’t the most interesting aspect of the play. With the Jaguars set to play in the shotgun formation for a decent chunk of offensive snaps this season, many believed it spelled trouble for the old-school, i-formation running back.
This was not the case on Sunday. Fournette showed great vision, and decisiveness operating out of shotgun. If the trend continues, the Jaguars will be able to get far more creative on first down without spelling out exactly what the team will do.
The burst is back. In years prior, due to various ankle/hamstring issues, Fournette has looked more like a plodder than the runner he was at LSU. Last week against the Chiefs, it was quite the opposite. Getting a handoff with a lead blocker operating out of the fullback position, Fournette is able to take the rock and sprint around the edge, gaining a first down.
If not for a key shoelace tackle by the safety, Fournette is off to the races and cutting the Chiefs’ lead to three with a touchdown. Fournette’s ability to burst once he gets to the edge will be key to opening up the inside run as more defenders will become hesitant, and begin to cheat outside later in the game.
As the Jaguars running game goes this season, so does the team. If Fournette has truly turned the corner in his career and stays healthy, the Jaguars offense will remain a threat, even without Nick Foles.
Especially now with a rookie quarterback (Gardner Minshew) at the helm, the Jaguars need to get the most out of Fournette and the rest of the backs on the roster.
The next test will come Sunday in Houston against the Texans, which includes future hall-of-fame defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
FILM ROOM: The Jaguars’ very confusing, up-and-down day part two
Make sure you check out part one of this series to see the deficiencies in the Jaguars game against the Carolina Panthers. In part two, we take a look at what went right, and how the Jaguars rebounded.
While the Jaguars struggled a lot during their game on Sunday, there are plenty of reasons to remain positive. Offensive, and defensively the Jaguars did well enough at times to win the game. In the end, it was too little, too late.
Defensively, Jaguars’ defensive tackle Calais Campbell said it best: “It is on us, especially on the defensive side of the ball, to elevate our game. We haven’t played up our capabilities yet this year, not consistently.”
The Jaguars have lacked consistency all season, and Sunday was no different. In such an up-and-down day, the Jaguars could not overcome their deficiencies as they did just a week before against the Denver Broncos.
Ultimately, overcoming a 14 point deficit is a great feat, but more often than not, you’re going to lose.
In the first half of the game, the Jaguars offensive line struggled, and their run game never got going. In the second half, however, the Jaguars were able to pull it together and perform very well — well enough to win — on Sunday.
There are more plays to illustrate this, but for the sake of brevity, let’s take a look at three key plays that made an impact.
Situation: 1st and 10 (fourth quarter, 11:53 remaining)
Thoughts: There was much criticism of Andrew Norwell‘s game, and while it is very valid throughout much of the first half, during the second half, he had minimal struggles. On this 44-yard run by Jaguars’ running back Leonard Fournette, Norwell does a nice job at executing a double-team on Panthers’ defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and moving to the second level getting in the way of the linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The Jaguars struggled to run the football at all in the first half with Fournette rushing 13 times for only 36 yards in the first half.
Situation: 1st and 10 (third quarter, 10:54 remaining)
Thoughts: Jaguars’ quarterback Gardner Minshew had a few incredible throws on Sunday. None better than this play to receiver DJ Chark Jr., who is on his way to becoming a Pro Bowl player. Minshew does a great job of looking off the safety using his eyes and coming back to Chark for the back-shoulder throw.
If there is any reason to remain optimistic about the Jaguars’ offense, it is because of Minshew. The rookie quarterback had a phenomenal day even with three turnovers.
The Jaguars offensive line does a fantastic job here of creating a clean pocket for Minshew. During the second half of the game, the offensive line play was night and day in terms of positive and negative plays.
Situation: 2nd and 16 (third quarter, 11:32 remaining)
Thoughts: Just a play before the impressive catch by Chark Jr., the Jaguars offensive line does a fantastic job yet again creating a pocket for Minshew to step into and make a throw. Cam Robinson, in particular, works his man perfectly sending him out wide, unable to make a play on the quarterback.
Norwell stones his man completely, and no one is able to touch Minshew.
The Jaguars’ defense didn’t necessarily rebound completely from the mistakes they made, however throughout the game they made key plays allowing for the Jaguars’ offense to get back to work.
Situation: 1st and 10 (third quarter, 10:27 remaining)
Thoughts: There is a reason why the Jaguars are staying Sunday’s mistakes are absolutely correctable. This play worked against the defense on Sunday, but when they played within themselves and stayed in their gaps, it went for a minimal gain. The Jaguars will need to work on their issues on defense throughout the week, but this play gives a reason for optimism.
Situation: 1st and 10 (first quarter, 5:01 remaining)
Situation: 3rd and 9 (second quarter, 00:49 remaining)
Thoughts: These are the types of plays that elicit optimism for the Jaguars’ defense. Having players such as Yannick Ngakoue making key stops in key situations is reminiscent of the Jaguars’ 2017 defense.
Thoughts: For as much flack as second-year cornerback Tre Herndon received last week against the Denver Broncos, he played very well against the Carolina Panthers. In this place he tracks the receiver perfectly, basically running the route for him to force an incompletion.
While the Jaguars will absolutely miss Jalen Ramsey at times this season — if he does not return to play –, there should be some hope with Herndon as his replacement.
Situation: 1st and 10 (second quarter, 4:22 remaining)
Thoughts: Ngakoue is still a force to be reckoned with, and while this sack/fumble play is made while he is unblocked, it is the same type of plays he has made the past three seasons. The one issue the Jaguars’ defense has had is actually landing on the football and creating turnovers.
Thus far this season, the Jaguars have only one turnover on defense — Ronnie Harrison‘s interception against the Broncos. If the Jaguars want to remain competitive on defense, this area will need to be cleaned up. Actually getting after the quarterback and forcing a fumble is a great start.
Situation: 4th and 1 (fourth quarter, 11:59 remaining)
Thoughts: This was the most impressive play of the game for the Jaguars’ defense. Getting a stop on fourth-and-one with the game on the line, it is the quality of play one should expect from a playoff-caliber defense.
If the Jaguars played this technically sound the entire game, the Jaguars easily win the game regardless of the offensive turnovers. The Jaguars will play the New Orleans Saints this coming Sunday where they will face yet another offensive powerhouse player in Saints’ running back Alvin Kamara.
The issues they have are all mostly fixable, but it remains to be seen if their preparation throughout the week will suffice.
FILM ROOM: The Jaguars’ very confusing, up-and-down day part one
The Jaguars had issues on defense throughout the game, and offensively during the first half made key mistakes along the offensive line and at quarterback which ultimately decided their fate.
The Jaguars’ deficiencies against the Panthers went unnoticed by no one. Defensively, while they recovered at times, allowing 285 yards on the ground to the Carolina Panthers was rather difficult to overcome.
Offensively, the Jaguars struggled to get off to a fast start along their offensive line and due to costly turnovers by their rookie quarterback, but both position groups recovered during the second half.
The Jaguars played well enough to win on Sunday, they simply couldn’t get out of their own way.
The Jaguars offensive line struggled mightily in the first half. This includes a botched play by Andrew Norwell which ultimately caused a fumble-six the other way by the Carolina Panthers. However, during the second half of the game, the Jaguars seemed to hunker down and recover from earlier issues, allowing the running game to succeed, as well as giving rookie quarterback Garder Minshew more time to see the field.
Situation: 3rd and 6 (second quarter, 13:43 remaining)
Thoughts: There really isn’t much to say. The Jaguars and Norwell likely want to never see this play again. Panthers’ defensive end Mario Addison had this to say about his efforts in causing the forced fumble:
“I knew (Andrew) Norwell liked to be aggressive,” Addison told reporters after the game on Sunday. “But this time he was passive, so I stabbed him and grabbed his hands and ran back to the quarterback as hard as I could before he could recover. Then, when I pushed him real hard into the quarterback, the quarterback lost the ball, Burns picked it up and took it in for the touchdown.”
Norwell is typically never this passive. While he has some deficiencies in his game, he at the very least won’t immediately get pushed back into the lap of his quarterback.
Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone said during his Monday press conference that when an offensive lineman has a few very bad plays, they will get noticed more often than their good plays. This is especially true when reviewing the Jaguars’ offensive line play.
“I think that when you have a bad play, it was a really bad play, and I’m sure Andrew would want it back, like we all would,” Marrone said. “And there’s other players, too, other linemen, other players on that field that would like to have those plays back.” This is a play he absolutely will want back.
Situation: 1st and 5 (first quarter, 6:13 remaining)
Thoughts: On this play, the Jaguars have Norwell pull from his left guard position as the lead blocker for Leonard Fournette on the right side of the formation. It’s important to point out because while Norwell does a fantastic job pulling, as soon as he comes close to a Panthers’ defender, he freezes, misses the block and prevents Leonard Fournette from running free.
Depending on how safety plays it, he may even score. Yet another play Norwell would likely want to have back.
Situation: 3rd and 4 (first quarter, 5:26 remaining)
Thoughts: On the above play, both Norwell and Cam Robinson get beat causing Minshew to get flustered and forced to throw the ball away. It is difficult to pin this on one player as it is possible Robinson was supposed to supply a bit more help inside than he did, however, the miscommunication issues have been persistent along the Jaguars’ offensive line.
Situation: 1st and 10 (second quarter, 2:00 remaining)
Thoughts: On this play, Robinson appears to lose his balance, and as a result he back peddles, getting beat inside in the process. He does, however, recover fairly quickly and very well afterward, but the damage was already done due to right guard A.J. Cann getting beat inside as well.
Robinson will have to continue working on his technical issues throughout the season. The second-year tackle missed nearly all of 2018 with a torn ACL and has only played in two full games thus far this season. In his return to the gridiron against the Tennessee Titans, Robinson only played half the snaps while splitting time with swing-tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.
Situation: 3rd and 4 (first quarter, 5:26 remaining)
Thoughts: The last offensive line play is Norwell once again being beat inside. Again, this could be a miscommunication with Robinson, however, it only goes to illustrate the issues along the line right now, at least early during games.
Situation: 2nd and 10 (fourth quarter, 2:33 remaining)
Thoughts: This an absolute “rookie play” for Gardner Minshew here. The Jaguars’ rookie quarterback has rarely been frazzled, however on this play he simply could not get out of his own head. Minshew runs around and ultimately is strip-sacked during a crucial moment in the game. The offensive line play here was just fine.
Similarly to the offense, the Jaguars struggled mightily on defense, however unlike the offense, their recovery was far more spotty. Allowing 285 yards on the ground, the Jaguars’ defensive struggles were persistent and frustrating to watch.
Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone spoke about the Jaguars’ defensive struggles on Monday during his weekly press conference. When asked about Marcell Dareus‘ suggestion that the Jaguars were simply out-schemed at times on Sunday, Marrone did not overtly disagree, his major point of emphasis was everyone from the players to the coaches needing to do a much better job.
“So, every gap should be secured, and every gap should be filled, and gaps should be played,” Marrone said. “And if that’s not happening, I take it upon myself to make sure that I put a big emphasis on it on practice. I can do a better job of that. The assistant coaches that are coaching those positions, ‘Get those players what they’re supposed to do and how they should do it,’ and then the players doing it.”
Situation: 1st and 10 (third quarter, 14:01 remaining)
Thoughts: The worst defensive play of the game truthfully doesn’t need very much explanation. The Jaguars — specifically at linebacker — were not in position. At the start of the play the Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen, pulls to the right of the offensive formation to perform a seal block which — in the end — was more of a diversion.
Jaguars’ linebacker Myles Jack bites on the play to carry his man — the tight end–, making his gap responsibility nowhere near Christian McCaffrey. While Quincy Williams is pulled to the right of the defensive formation, but more importantly defensive tackle Calais Campbell stays backside anticipating the reverse and as a result is taken completely out of his gap.
Situation: 1st and 15 (first quarter, 1:42 remaining)
Thoughts: On this play, Jack is stuck in no man’s land covering McCaffrey who lines up in the slot. Without any help at all inside, he’s easily beat for a touchdown. This play simply should not have occurred, the Jaguars should not put a player in a position of weakness to cover one of the best offensive players in space one-on-one.
Situation: 2nd and 4 (third quarter, 0:41 remaining)
Thoughts: This play is similar to the last, only the Panthers motion their wide receiver prior to the play in an attempt to draw the defense away from the play. The play is doomed for the defense from the get-go. Williams is out of position and needs to play tighter to cover his gap inside.
Jack does a nice job at filling his gap, however, because Williams is so late, he gets washed out by the guard and the rest is history.
Situation: 1st and 10 (fourth quarter, 3:46 remaining)
Thoughts: This is the exact same play the Jaguars got burned on earlier in the game when McCaffrey scored on an 84-yard run. Similar to the first play, the Jaguars are out of position, but in a different way.
Instead of allowing the ball-carrier to pull inside, the Jaguars play the inside well, however, Jack remains out of position. Campbell is sucked too far inside but is barely able to stay in his gap, and safety Ronnie Harrison is unable to make the stop while being in the position to make a play, allowing for yet another long touchdown.
The Panthers called several plays multiple times during the game on Sunday, but the Jaguars did not have an answer.
Check out part two where we illustrate the positive plays made by the Jaguars, completing their bizarre up-and-down day.
FILM ROOM: Jaguars receiver DJ Chark is building a résumé
Drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Jaguars receiver DJ Chark is growing into the number one receiver the team envisioned.
After recording only 14 receptions for 174 yards during his rookie year, Jaguars receiver DJ Chark is slowly turning into a legitimate go-to receiver for the Jaguars. Only two games into the 2019 season, Chark has already accumulated 11 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Hard work and dedication to his craft during the offseason is beginning to pay off. The young receiver believes his confidence level is growing. “A lot,” Chark told Locked On Jaguars when asked about how much his confidence level has grown. “Just from knowing where to be, when to be there. Knowing the offense. Knowing the routine. All that helped me out a lot.”
Every offseason, while players work on everything, they typically hone in on one specific area. For Chark? “My routes. That’s the biggest thing,” Chark said. “Getting in-and-out of breaks, understanding my playbook, and just tweaking small things in my game.”
While the second-year wide receiver is confident heading into week three, he knows there’s a lot he needs to do to get better. “I think I’ve been doing well, but I haven’t had a perfect game,” Chark said when asked if he was satisfied with his game. “A lot to work on, a lot to get better at. Also we 0-2. A lot we need to work on, so not satisfied, no.”
Typically, it takes about a year for a receiver to truly get into a rhythm as far as the speed of the game, knowing where to be, how to be there, and all of the little things that a receiver needs to understand. Chark has seemingly met at least some of those goals, and while he still has a lot to work on, the first two weeks into the 2019 season has been a fantastic start.
Last week against the Houston Texans, Chark accounted for seven receptions (nine targets) for 55 yards and a touchdown. The two incompletions came on an overthrown ball from rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew, and a fantastic pass breakup made by Texans’ cornerback Lonnie Johnson.
Chark has built a close bond with the Minshew. Something he says is due to the “southern swagger.” Minshew was born and raised in Mississippi while Chark was born and raised in Louisianna. “We from the south,” Chark said when asked about the chemistry the two have together. “It just works that way.”
The two will hope to continue growing together as a dynamic duo over the course of the season.
Shortly after the Jaguars loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone was very complimentary of the second-year receiver out of Louisiana State University stating, “I think it’s consistency…He’s a guy that can go in there and make plays and someone that is going to keep getting better and better.”
The team hopes Chark continues to show promise as the season progresses. Having ready-made chemistry with Minshew certainly helps.
Onto the film room:
Thoughts: Probably the best aspect of Chark’s game is his ability to travel from one side of the field to the other effortlessly, and with speed. Chark ran a 4.34 40-yard dash during the combine in 2018, and it shows on the crossing route ran against the Texans last week.
During his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo complimented the receiver on how much work he is putting in running all over the field.
What might seem simple at first glance, Chark does a fantastic job at maintaining inside leverage with the corner while creating separation with his speed. The reception itself illustrates a consistency with his hands — something receiver had not been able to find throughout his football career.
Thoughts: Chark made good on his “southern swagger” connection on Sunday. The Louisiana native breaks on his crossing route and follows Minshew throughout to give the rookie quarterback a clear, and clean opening for a would-be game-tying touchdown. The growth and maturity in his game is obvious.
DeFilippo agrees with Chark’s opinion that his confidence is certainly growing. “He’s running across on the touchdown pass and he points up to the sky like they put it up for me,” DeFilippo said when speaking about Chark on Tuesday.
Once again, Chark uses his hands to haul in a perfectly placed football thrown by his rookie quarterback. With his confidence level rising, as DeFilippo points out, the skies the limit.
Thoughts: Against soft coverage, Chark does a fantastic job at selling the nine-route while transitioning to a stop-route just after the first-down marker. In years past Chark likely either runs the wrong route or is too hesitant at the line to sell a deep route. Now, with a full understanding of the playbook and his position, he can just run freely.
Thoughts: On his most impressive play of the game, Chark shows off his insane body control and hands catching. This is a complete 180 from his play last season when Chark was inconsistent in both areas.
The ball from Minshew comes is a beauty. Perhaps slightly earlier than he’d necessarily like, but the moment Chark turns around to look for the ball and makes a perfect adjustment in the air to make the grab on first-and-ten.
The play Minshew missed on. Depending on the move Chark would have put on Texans’ safety Tashuan Gipson this goes for six.
Chark will hope to continue the path to becoming the Jaguars number one receiver on Thursday when the team plays host to their division rival Tennessee Titans. Chark knows how important this game is coming off of a short week against a division opponent.
“It’s pretty big,” Chark said. “But I’m excited. Quick turnaround from Sunday. It’s football — going out there with my offense. Can’t wait.”
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