Battles in an NFL training camp are everywhere. Sometimes they are for starting positions and sometimes for depth on a roster. And in the case of all three Florida pro teams, there are question marks in the backfield.
Let’s start in Jacksonville, where the Jags obviously drafted Leonard Fournette to be the main ball carrier for the foreseeable future. He got off to a good start in the role in their first preseason game at New England. However, he came out of that game with what’s been described as a “sore foot,” hasn’t practiced in the important team vs. team practices with the Bucs and won’t play in Thursday’s night’s game.
So, clearly there is serious opportunity for either veteran Chris Ivory (above) or third year player T.J. Yeldon to showcase themselves, not only in this preseason game, but for the remainder of camp to not only begin the year in the mix, but maybe get some key carries, themselves. Our Roy Cummings wrote earlier in the year that Ivory in particular may be the guy who starts at the beginning of the season or at the minimum rotate in and out with Fournette during first halves.
If Ivory looks impressive Thursday, that will solidify his role. Obviously, for Yeldon he must be better than what we saw last year and out of the gate against the Pats, where he was barely getting any yardage. Still, the Jaguars are likely to give to Fournette 18-20 times no matter what.
Meanwhile, the Bucs have issues of their own, as star running back Doug Martin is suspended by the NFL for the first three games of the season. Martin has been taking a lot of the first team reps in camp and was the first running back on the field during Tampa Bay’s opening possession last Friday night in Cincinnati. But, Jacquizz Rodgers replaced him on that drive and the subsequent drive as a “1A” in coach Dirk Koetter’s rotation.
Despite being under sized, Rodgers was very effective last season while Martin nursed a hamstring injury and then did not play in the Buccaneers final two games of the season, while the suspension was sorted out. So, if he’s healthy, he will be the guy out with the first team on opening day.
The Buccaneers have fourth year veteran Charles Sims to the mix, but he’s battled injuries his first three seasons and is clearly more of a pass catching back than an every down guy to carry the load for a run game. They also have second year player Peyton Barber, who shined in limited opportunities in 2016 and knows the offense. And the Bucs drafted rookie Jeremy McNichols out of Boise State, who has pass catching skills and is a good special teams player. However, he’s not going to be an every down back at least to begin this year, if at all.
So, the Bucs, who get a roster exemption while Martin sits, will likely keep all five guys as camp begins.
Finally, in Miami, it’s obvious that the Dolphins want to ride “The J-Train” some more. Jay Ajayi’s breakout season in his second year has fantasy football drafters salivating. The problem is, he’s already suffered a mild concussion that kept him out a week and in the Fins first preseason game with Atlanta last week. Ajayi is back at practice this week and slated to be the 20+ carry back that the Dolphins need.
However, as his absence early in camp has shown, the Dolphins must establish the rotation. We have written previously this off season about who the other backs are and which one will emerge behind Ajayi. Last Thursday they used both Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake for some first half carries. Drake was slightly more effective with 21 yards on just four carries. Wililams did carry it six times, himself.
Drake also is a pass catcher and kick returner, too. But, then, he left practice earlier this week with a slight concussion. So, it would appear that Williams has the upper hand in the battle for playing time behind Ajayi.
Also keep an eye on undrafted rookie De’Veon Smith out of Michigan who carried it seven times in preseason game #1. He will have a shot to make the roster for Adam Gase’s backfield and can also go on the practice squad, too.
All in all, there are some talented backs among the state’s NFL tams. But who starts week one, how much they carry it, and who backs them up in what order? That’s still up for grabs in all three spots.
Concern continues for former Jaguars DB Donovin Darius
Former Jaguars first-round pick and star defensive back of the late 90s- early 2000s, Donovan Darius, remains under a mental health watch after being arrested for DUI in North Florida Sunday and, further, concerns that he was suicidal.
ESPN Jaguars reporter Mike Dirocco had more details on the Sunday arrest and later hospitalization of Darius who was a first-round pick of the Jaguars in the 1998:
Former Jacksonville Jaguars safety Donovin Darius ingested numerous pills after being arrested and charged for driving under the influence on Sunday afternoon, per a law enforcement source. Darius was taken to a Jacksonville hospital for a mental health… https://t.co/Sqc3rSzwy7
— Michael DiRocco (@ESPNdirocco) January 27, 2020
According to a police Source, DiRocco reported that Darius had crashed his vehicle around 10 a.m. Sunday and told paramedics that he had ingested 20 – 30 pills trying to kill himself.
Police did find empty pill bottles in Darius’ car and could not follow through with a field sobriety test, as apparently Darius could not stand on his own and was incoherent. Darius was transported to a nearby hospital and is currently being held on Florida’s 72-hour “Baker Act,” which allows authorities out of concern for a person’s well-being or that he’s a danger to others, to hold and evaluate them.
Darius was also charged with misdemeanor DUI, although he didn’t appear in the Duval County Jail.
Darius started 117 games in his nine-year Jaguar career. His biggest season was 2004, where he had 89 tackles recorded five interceptions and recovered four fumbles. Dariuss played in four playoff games all coming in his first two seasons. That included an interception against the New York Jets in Jacksonville’s AFC Divisional round playoff loss 34 – 24.
Darius’ last season with Jacksonville was 2006, where he played in 10 games. Darius played in three games in the 2007 season for the Dolphins before being released and retired after that.
The 44 year old Darius has remained involved in the Jacksonville Community including being part of a sports camp for youth last November:
CALLING ALL BOYS AGES 9-18 | I’m challenging you in a race at my (FREE)30th D.A.R.E to DREAM SPORTS LIFE CAMP that will take place at on Sat. November 16th – 10am -2pm at University of North Florida. JOIN ME for… https://t.co/oqSY3JZMsn
— Donovin Darius (@DonovinDarius) October 31, 2019
Darius was recognized on the field at halftime of the Gator Bowl game at TIAA Bank Field (photo above) back on January 2nd between Tennessee and Indiana.
Duval County records do not yet have a court date yet for Darius, and it will be up to mental health officials to evaluate whether he can safely be released later this week.
Jaguars rookie DE Josh Allen on display in Pro Bowl
This afternoon in Orlando Jacksonville Jaguars rookie first-round pick Josh Allen will get to show NFL fans why he’s one of the best kept secrets on the defensive side of the ball in the league.
Allen will be participating, as a reserve for the AFC Squad in the annual Pro Bowl All-Star Game.
This, as he was a replacement for Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Frank Clark, because the Chiefs will be participating in Super Bowl 54 this week. The rookie 7th overall pick out of Kentucky has had a deserving season with 10.5 sacks, which was the most among rookies in the AFC in 2019 and is also a Jaguars single-season rookie record.
Allen also had 22 QB hits and another 11 tackles for loss even during a trying Jacksonville season.
Further, Allen was drafted a year ago by the Jaguars front office of Tom Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell to be a potential replacement at defensive end for a couple of Jaguars, who may not be around much longer. One of those is their top pass-rusher of the last three seasons Yannick Ngakoue, who is slated to be an unrestricted free agent coming up in March.
Of course Jacksonville could still find a way to re-sign Ngakoue, or even place the “Franchise Tag” on him, if they so desired. That would be a somewhere around an $18-19 million for 2020.
Then, you have fellow veteran pro bowler Calais Campbell who has earned the Pro Bowl honor for the third consecutive year and is arguably the Jaguars best free agent acquisition in team history. Campbell made this year’s AFC Pro Bowl Squad with 6.5 sacks and has the longest current streak of 11 seasons with at least five of them.
However, he is slated to make $14.5 million this season and at his advanced age (he’ll be 34 this fall) may not be worth that salary to Caldwell and the organization.
Jacksonville could elect to restructure Campbell’s contract especially because he is a liter not only are the defense but in their locker room back to Alan he’s certainly has tremendous potential but if the combo oven gokwe and or Campbell aren’t there it would make much more difficulty for him to have a success that he had in 2019.
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