As Jaguar training camp get set to open up next week, one of the dominant storylines will be: what is the status of arguably their best pass rusher the last three seasons, Yannick Ngakoue?
If you’re looking for a simple answer, there isn’t one, yet.
And it was further complicated on Tuesday, when Ngakoue, who skipped to the team’s mandatory mini-camp last month, was apparently at the Jaguars facility working out.
Jacksonville beat writer for the Athletic, Phillip Heilman pointed out, from Ngakoue’s defensive teammate, linebacker Myles Jack’s Instagram photo, that he and and the disgruntled defensive end were working out there on Tuesday:
FWIW, Yannick Ngakoue was in the building yesterday, per Myles Jack’s IG story. Ngakoue skipped minicamp looking for a long-term deal. Would make sense for that to get done before the start of training camp on July 25. Maybe this means something. Maybe it doesn’t. #Jaguars pic.twitter.com/e4qmxiZs49
— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) July 16, 2019
As we have written previously, and Ngakoue was a no show in June, while seeking a massive pay raise from small salary in the final year of his four-year rookie contract.
Ngakoue is slated to make $2 million this season. Or, roughly about an eighth of what the top 5 defensive ends in the NFL make on average ($15.5 million).
He’s been Jacksonville’s best pass-rusher over his three-year career accumulating 29.5 sacks (9.5 in 2018) and 70 quarterback hits. This after being an unheralded 3rd round draft pick out of Maryland in 2016. So, you can understand his frustration and wanting a new deal.
But, what exactly is the truth?
Well, if you’re looking at Ngakoue’s social media for clues, it’s also mixed signals. He repeatedly sends out one sentence “Mantra messages” including this on Tuesday:
Can’t be worried about the wrong things. Put stuff beneath you.
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) July 16, 2019
Further, V.P. of Football Tom Coughlin has shown little/to no tolerance for players that are being counted on to not be present and ready to go. He already spoke out on that subject earlier this off-season with defenders Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith skipping the offseason program with the team.
Coughlin was rebuked by the NFLPA and eventually warned by the NFL about trying to make “voluntary” offseason workouts appear to be mandatory and potentially, punitive if a player doesn’t show up.
And then to further compound things, Smith has decided, at least for the last three months, to tell everyone that he’s not going to play at all this year. This despite being a captain, in the prime of his career and slated to make over $9 million for 2019.
But, all of this isn’t voluntary starting next week. And, it’s important to remember in Ngakoue would be holding out, while under contract and the Jaguars have been negotiating with him.
So, we’re about to find out how serious they are about getting a deal done, and how serious he is about really staying away and being fined, while he awaits the possible new deal from the Jags?
Jags WR Marqise Lee returns to practice
After losing veteran Alfred Blue in the first half of the 24–10 Thursday night loss to the Eagles with an ankle injury, the Jaguars are looking for offensive depth. In some fortunate news, WR Marqise Lee is off of the PUP list and has begun practicing today, roughly one year after suffering from knee damage that sidelined him for the entire 2018 season.
Head coach Doug Marrone made the announcement before practice on Saturday.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 17, 2019
First Coast news reporter Ben Murphy got a video of Lee at practice receiving a pass from QB Nick Foles.
— Ben Murphy (@BenMurphyTV) August 17, 2019
Last year, Lee was injured in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Falcons. He was hit by reserve defensive back Damontae Kazee on this play after a reception.
— Kevin Boilard (@247KevinBoilard) August 25, 2018
Lee suffered a torn ACL and went on injured reserve missing the entire season.
Lee became more prominent in Jacksonville’s pass offense in 2017 with 56 catches for 702 yards and three TDs. The Jags are surely going to rely on him this season which could mean he’ll see the field a bit in their third preseason game to get him readjusted to competitive game play.
However, they might not want to risk another potential injury before the season begins. We could see it going either way. We do know that he’ll be a great weapon for Nick Foles to utilize this season.
The return of Lee is coming off the heels of some other good news for the Jags announced earlier this week. Starting left tackle Cam Robinson was also removed from the PUP list on Monday after suffering a torn ACL in Week 2 last season. He has since made enough progress participate in some individual drills and should be ready, along with Lee, for their season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
In other injury-related news, we await how serious Blue’s ankle injury is coming off this second preseason game. Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Leonard Fournette, backed up by Thomas Rawls, will be the two running backs when the Jaguars play at the Dolphins next Thursday night.
Jaguars searching for RB depth after second preseason game
With preseason game number two in the books, it’s apparent the Jaguars have real issues with running back depth due to injury. This after veteran Alfred Blue left the first half of the 24 – 10 Thursday night loss to the Eagles with an ankle injury and did not return.
Blue carried the ball four times for just five yards has Jacksonville offense once again sputtered behind a makeshift offensive line. Coach Doug Marrone was so concerned about that line situation and their ability to protect/block that starting quarterback Nick Foles and running back Leonard Fournette never saw the field for a single play during Thursday night.
That means that veteran at Thomas Rawls (above Thursday) was called upon to carry the ball a little more, and he did so, seven times for 19 yards including a long run of 11 playing in the first half.
Rawls is a 5th year veteran who had some modest success with the Seahawks, including rushing for 830 yards his rookie year in 2015 with a 5.6 yard per carry average. His numbers tapered off in 2016 – 17 with ankle and foot injuries, as he only played in 21 games in those two years. Rawls was later released and picked up by the Bengals, but injured again last season, and never carried the ball in Cincinnati.
Obviously, the Jaguars are wanting to implement Fournette, as the primary ball carrier, but they will need someone else to spell him on a series or two. Also, Fournette has had durability questions, as he missed parts or all of eight games last year with a hamstring injury.
The Jags were also hoping to bring along Temple rookie running back Ryquell Armstead, but after he carried eight times for 22 yards last week, he suffered a concussion in the preseason opening loss to the Ravens. Armstead hasn’t practiced since, and is still being evaluated with no further update Thursday.
Speaking of updates, we await how serious Blue’s ankle injury is coming off this second preseason game. Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Fournette, backed up by Rawls, will be the two running backs when the Jaguars play at the Dolphins next Thursday night.