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What should the Jaguars do with running back Leonard Fournette?

Demetrius Harvey

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Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) runs the ball down to the one yard line as Buffalo Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) makes a tackle during the second quarter at New Era Field.
Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has become a hot topic as of late. As the focal point of what was a dreadful Jaguars offense in 2018, Fournette has gone from budding superstar at the running back position to seemingly a bust in the past five or so months.

Granted, injury issues during this past season can be used as an excuse for Fournette’s lack of production – 439 yards on 133 carries (3.3 yards per carry) and five touchdowns in eight games – but a second career suspension that led to his guaranteed money getting pulled from his contract, reportedly being out of shape by Week 16, and getting called “disrespectful” and “selfish” in a public statement from EVP of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, all point the arrow in an incredibly negative direction.

Recently, Fournette and the Jaguars front office staff sat down to discuss various issues regarding the running back and have reportedly rebuilt their relationship. The Jaguars could still move forward with Fournette after all, however I would not rule out the team moving on.

Considering the lack of guaranteed dollars in Fournette’s contract now, the Jaguars could release their fourth overall pick in 2017 without any repercussions. With the season over, and free agency and the NFL Draft only a few months away, what should the Jaguars do with Leonard Fournette? Is he worth retaining?

PROS
Fournette has been the Jaguars lead back since arriving in Duval in 2017, and despite ankle/foot injuries he was able to play in 13 games and owned a key role in their victories. Fournette accounted for 1,342 total yards and 10 touchdowns in during his rookie season.

This was the type of rookie season one would expect out of a rookie running back, although, it would seem to be a tad bit short of top five pick expectations. But regardless, he served his role well and truly was the bread-and-butter to the offenses’ successes during their AFC South Championship of a season.

When looking at what Fournette positively has to offer the team right now, though, mainly points to what was almost two years ago now:

  • Impressive rookie season
  • Potential with natural talent
  • Funny Instagram Comments

I struggled to find very many legitimate pros for the Jaguars retaining Fournette considering current circumstances. What it simply boils down to is if you feel as though Fournette will live up to his potential. Sure, he has been able to provide a good running game for the Jaguars in spurts in his career, but for the most part, he has not been reliable. Fournette had a knack for getting the tough yards during his rookie season, and even though he only averaged 3.9 yards per attempt, he was instrumental in the offensive success.

During college, Fournette was touted as one of the brightest stars at running back and destined to become a star in the pros. This much was clear because of his stats – especially during his freshman and sophomore seasons. In total during his days at LSU, Fournette accumulated a total of 4,356 yards and 41 touchdowns with an average YPC of 6.2.

Jaguars Running Back Leonard Fournette's college statistics. Including his 6.2 yards per carry and 3800 plus rushing yards.

https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/leonard-fournette-1.html

These numbers are staggering and impressive at any level of football, and clearly demonstrate the potential Fournette possesses with his natural talent. Unfortunately, Fournette’s junior year was slightly derailed by an injured ankle which sidelined him for five games. However, even though he was coming off of a down year, his previous two were good enough for the Jaguars to take a shot and select him with the 4th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Finally, his Instagram comments. Clearly, this is a major point of interest from Jaguars fans based on a few responses to this tweet here:

In all seriousness, Fournette does bring a laugh to the Jaguars locker room as well as the fan base. While this is not a legitimate reason for keeping him, it is something to bring light to this situation at the very least. Hopefully, if Fournette does end up sticking around he will continue to have a bunch of laughs similar to this:

via @thecheckdown

CONS
The Jaguars running game was downright terrible this season. To start the season off, Fournette injured his hamstring not once, but twice which led him to miss seven of the first 10 games. There are a variety of reasons for the young RB’s lack of production, but his injuries do take the cake. They were constant enough to even warrant the Jaguars moving on at some point, as there’s definitely a trend with his injury issues.

Here’s a list of negatives that Fournette offers the team:

  • Injury issues
  • Lack of maturity
  • Lack of Success
  • Expensive cap hit

To put it bluntly, it was far easier to come up with cons for Fournette than it was to come up with pros to keeping him. This is simply because since the very start of his Jaguars career (during his rookie season) the running back has had various issues including but not limited to a poor maturity level and multiple injuries.

Fournette first injured his ankle in college, as noted above. However, the injury sprung up again during his rookie season with the Jaguars in 2017. Injured in the week six matchup against the Rams, Fournette went on to miss the next couple of games before returning against the Chargers. However, upon his return he still was hobbled by the injury, limiting his production severely. For example, prior to his injury, Fournette was averaging 4.58 YPC. After the injury, however, Fournette only averaged 3.2 YPC.

Fast forward to this 2018 season with the Jaguars and the injuries showed up again. This time, Fournette was out for much longer of a time. He missed a total of eight games this past season, and in the eight games that he actually played in, he was basically ineffective. During his injury skid, the Jaguars traded a 5th round draft pick to the Browns for RB Carlos Hyde. Hyde provided very little for the Jaguars offense as a whole and was subsequently benched.

Even upon his return, Fournette could not manage to do much of anything on the ground. Some of that had to do with offensive line injuries, however, a lot had to do with his own inability to use his vision and hit the right holes in order to gain yards.

For example, Fournette was touted out of college as a “north/south” runner, and yet his efficiency (total distance a player traveled on rushing plays as a ball carrier according to Next Gen Stats per rushing yards gained – the lower the number, the more of a North/South runner) was 4.44 which – 10th highest in the NFL, despite his limited carries.

What this means is Fournette was mostly ineffective and indecisive in his runs during the 2018 season. Fournette’s EFF during the 2017 season was much better at 4.01, considering the type of back he is.

The reason why the Jaguars even have an option of releasing or trading Fournette in the first place has been due to his antics. This includes getting suspended in 2017 for one game by the Jaguars for a violation of team rules, as well as this past season by the NFL for getting into a fight during the Buffalo Bills game. There have also been several reports of Fournette missing key treatments during his injuries.

Due to this, the Jaguars notified Fournette that the team voided the remaining guarantees in his four-year rookie contract. This includes $7.1 million over the final two years of what had originally been a fully guaranteed rookie deal. Keeping Fournette would pose an unnecessary burden on the Jaguars salary cap situation heading into the 2019 and 2020 season if they feel as though his production does not match his draft day value. If so, it would behoove the Jaguars to move on from the RB and create space to acquire better-suited talent.

However, Fournette is likely to file a grievance against the Jaguars action through the NFLPA. Whether or not he wins the grievance will be key to moving on from the RB. If Fournette wins, the $7.1 million will still be guaranteed and give the Jaguars less incentive to moving on.

Conclusion

What I believe the Jaguars should do in this situation is to simply move on. Leonard Fournette has been effective at times during his career with the Jaguars. However, his production has certainly not outweighed the negatives in his game, nor has it even come close to his draft-pick value.

The Jaguars are also moving forward with an OL coach who uses more zone blocking scheme principles which absolutely does not fit Fournette’s style of play. I believe the Jaguars should either use Fournette as a trade piece to move up in the draft or get something for him and draft his replacement. This years’ NFL draft is (once again) full of capable running backs who could not only carry the load but also allow for the Jaguars to be more innovative on offense.

The Jaguars have an opportunity to fetch at least a 3rd or 4th round pick from either the Oakland Raiders or the New York Jets. Both teams are hurting at the RB position and Fournette’s potential would be enough to get them to acquire him.

If the Jaguars would like to move on from Fournette, I believe they absolutely can, and it would happen around or near the draft. The Jaguars have invested a lot into the running back and going as far as reportedly hiring a RB coach who would most likely mentor the young back. However, if they want to get the most out of the back as they can before it is too late, they would trade him sooner rather than later.

Demetrius Harvey is a Locked on Jaguars writer focusing on game breakdowns as well as breaking news. Demetrius is a lifelong Jaguars fan. You can follow him at @Demetrius82 on twitter.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

NFLPA seemingly responds to Jaguars, Coughlin about the word ‘voluntary’

Demetrius Harvey

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May 26, 2017; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin (center) looks on during organized team activities at Everbank Field. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars today issued their annual state of the franchise address to fans and media alike. During the press conference, Tom Coughlin addressed the audience regarding the status of the football team. During his speech, Coughlin spoke about the player’s attendance to voluntary offseason workouts which began on Monday. Only two players were missing from the workouts — Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith –, and Coughlin’s message was clear when he stated: “We’re very close to 100 percent attendance – and quite frankly, all our players should be here.”

One statement which stood out by Coughlin was made directly afterward “Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish and insensitive to the real values of the team. The hard work that many try to avoid is the major building block for the development of an outstanding football team.” This statement creates a sort of cloudy vision of what exactly voluntary means which is why the NFLPA decided to issue their own statement on what voluntary means to them:

Listen. Everyone would love if the Jaguars had 100% attendance at these sort of voluntary workouts. There is no doubt that great strides can be made in all facets of the offseason, however, there is a reason why these workouts have been made voluntary. NFL players have been overworked, and collectively bargained with the NFL in an effort to limit the workload over the offseason in order to produce a better product on the field in the fall.

Whether or not Jalen Ramsey or Telvin Smith show up for the few-week period of voluntary workouts should have no impact. Both athletes have proven themselves over the years plenty of times. Jalen Ramsey works out with his father in Tennesee every offseason. This has no changed, nor do I expect it to anytime soon.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars official 2019 NFL Schedule revealed

Demetrius Harvey

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Dec 31, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Fireworks are shot over the stadium after game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the North Carolina State Wolfpack at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released all 32 teams’ schedules ahead of the 2019 NFL season. We can finally get a closer look at when the Jaguars will play each opponent. The Jaguars have one prime time game this upcoming season on  Thursday Night Football at home against the Titans (week 3). The Jaguars open up against the Kansas City Chiefs at home. The Jaguars lost to the Chiefs last season 30-14.

Earlier today the Jaguars announced they will be playing in London on November 2nd against the Houston Texans. Last season the Jaguars played in London on October 28th.

As for the Jaguars bye week, it will once again come directly after the Jaguars London journey which is to be expected as they have had a similar schedule the past two seasons. The bye week will occur during week 10 after their matchup against the Texans in London.

The Jaguars will be closing out the season at home for the first time since 2011. They play the Indianapolis Colts.

Jaguars 2019 NFL Schedule:

Week 1: vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, September 8

Week 2: @ Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, September 15

Week 3: vs. Tennessee Titans, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network, Thursday, September 19

Week 4: @ Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS, Sunday, September 29

Week 5: @ Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, October 6

Week 6: vs. New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, October 13

Week 7: @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, October 20

Week 8: vs. New York Jets, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, October 27

Week 9: vs. Houston Texans (London), 9:30 a.m., NFL Network, Sunday, November 3

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: @ Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, November 17

Week 12: @ Tennessee Titans, 4:05 p.m., CBS, Sunday, November 24

Week 13: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m., FOX, Sunday, December 1

Week 14: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m., FOX, Sunday, December 8

Week 15: @ Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m., CBS, Sunday, December 15

Week 16: @ Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m., FOX, Sunday, December 22

Week 17: vs. Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, December 29

*All times are in EST

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Jacksonville Jaguars

REPORT: Jaguars claim former Cowboys guard Parker Ehinger

Zach Goodall

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Credit: DallasCowboys.com

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Jacksonville Jaguars have added former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Parker Ehinger off of waivers.

Ehinger spent the 2018 season with the Cowboys following two with the Kansas City Chiefs. The former 4th round pick in 2016 was traded to Dallas last preseason, but spent the majority of the season on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in practice. He also tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus as a rookie in 2016.

The 6-6, 310 lb guard has played in six career games, starting in five.

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