2018 was a second season to forget for Jaguars star running back Leonard Fournette. He knows and the team knows that he has to get back to being a running back he was in his breakout 2017 rookie season in North Florida.
However, there’s a great subplot unfolding in Fournette’s attempt to recapture the speed, power and “mojo” that got him drafted in the top five of the 2017 class, and it’s has taken him to a very interesting place….
Yes, in monitoring his social media Wednesday and Thursday, Fournette has not been bashful about revealing that he’s working out with the University of Wyoming football team and staff in their facility on campus:
— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) February 28, 2019
Yes, a great distance from New Orleans and even greater from Jacksonville, Fournette has ventured to the “Wild, Wild West” to be reunited with his former LSU assistant strength coach Ben Iannacchione.
After getting permission from Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl to work out with the team, Fournette has been there for over a week, now.
Iannacchione talked to Jacksonville.com Jaguars beat writer Philip Heilmann on Thursday about reuniting with a former Bayou Bengals star.
And he told the paper:
“The Leonard I see now — and, again, I wasn’t around Leonard last year, still followed his career, noticed he missed some games last year — but the Leonard that’s here in Wyoming right now is very similar to the Leonard that I had at LSU. If he continues with this mindset and this work ethic, I think everyone in Jacksonville is going to be pleasantly surprised.”
Obviously, Fournette understands that he is at a crossroads in his Jacksonville career. As quickly as he burst out in 2017 helping Jacksonville win the division and two playoff games while rushing for over 1,000 yards, it all fizzled out in 2018.
He was injured in week one at the Gitants and missed most or all of seven of eight games to start the season for the Jaguars with an injured right hamstring. He tried to come back briefly, before being shut down for several weeks in a second attempt to get the hamstring to heal.
And that wasn’t the worst of his season.
The controversy began with a November ejection from the game at Buffalo for fighting with Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson and that was followed by a one-game suspension. The NFL suspended him for one week after the ejection.
Because of that, Jacksonville has voided the remaining $7 million in guarantees on Fournette’s rookie deal and that’s something he’s contesting through the NFLPA with the league.
Fournette was also inactive with an injured ankle for the season finale in Houston, and was reprimanded publicly by VP of football Tom Coughlin for his sidelines disinterest, especially while the Jaguars had the ball on offense.
There has been speculation that the Jaguars wold entertain trading Fournette, if there was someone willing to part with a premium draft pick. GM Dave Caldwell danced around specific answers about Fournette at his Wednesday press conference at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Still, it’s hard to believe that the Jags would just give up on him after one lost season at 24 years old.
So needless to say, both sides want a fresh start and Fournette has gone a long way, out of the way, to try to get it.
Report- Jaguars DB Jalen Ramsey demanding trade
The continued soap opera of Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey had another chapter on Sunday and now, the Pro Bowl defensive back has apparently demanded a trade.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport says that Ramsey’s agent contacted the club Sunday night after the team’s latest loss, 13 – 12 to the Houston Texans, wanting his client to be moved:
Sources: #Jaguars Pro Bowl CB Jalen Ramsey has requested a trade from the team. This stems from his frustration with how he’s being used and from a confrontation with coach Doug Marrone on Sunday. This has been steadily building.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 16, 2019
The latest dust-up involving the former Florida State first round pick and the club happened on the sidelines in the first quarter of the game. That’s when Ramsey was apparently upset the coach Doug Marrone did not challenge a completion to Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on a key third-down with Ramsey covering him.
Television replays showed the ball may very well have been on the ground and the pass incomplete. Marrone and Ramsey had to be separated, not once but twice, after Marrone confronted him on the bench next to teammates:
Lets check in on the 0-1 Jaguars. Jalen Ramsey vs Doug Marrone? Oh pic.twitter.com/hJ7oe2XyAP
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) September 15, 2019
Then, Ramsey came back to argue with Marrone, while he was standing near midfield resuming his coaching duties. And, he had to be walked back to the bench area by an assistant coach.
The ongoing saga included reports last season that the Jaguars have been shopping Ramsey themselves for possible premium draft picks during a dismal 5 – 11 finish.
Ramsey was also suspended for a week of training camp a year ago for conduct detrimental to the team after he screamed at Jaguars beat reporter Philip Heilman. Heilman was filming an altercation between teammates Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler after a training camp practice.
Ramsey is making $3.6 million for this season, earlier in April the Jags picked up Ramsey’s $13.7 million option for next season.
The Jaguars send a message to their locker room last October when they dealt Fowler, former number 1 pick defensive end out of Florida to the L.A. Rams. So, it is not too far-fetched to think that VP of Football Tom Coughlin and Marrone would do the same with Ramsey soon.
However it’s not likely that something like that would happen this week, as the Jaguars are hosting the Tennessee Titans in the Thursday night game at TIAA Bank Field.
Credit Jaguars Doug Marrone for gambling on two point play
All too often, coaches deserve criticism for being way too conservative or not being willing to take any chances. So, when a coach does what Doug Marrone did in the final :30 Sunday in Houston, we say “raise a glass for him.”
To set the scene: the Jaguars had played a pretty subpar offensive game for much of the day behind rookie backup quarterback Gardner Minshew. However, Minshew rallied the team in the final two minutes down 13 – 6 to get into scoring range. This included Minshew scrambling on his own and running 18 yards down to the Houston at 13-yard-line with :52 left.
Then with :30 left, Minshew found second-year receiver D.J. Chark alone in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown to pull Jacksonville within one point.
And that’s when Marrone, the Jags third-year head coach, decided to gamble on trying to win the game, right then.
Marrone called for a two-point play, and it was briefly halted when Texans coach Bill O’Brien called time out. Still, after the brief break and time to think about it, Marrone stuck with his plan and did not try to tie the game with a Josh Lambo extra point.
Instead, out of the shotgun formation Minshew handed inside to power back Leonard Fournette, who was stopped by a Texans double team tackle led by safety Justin Reid, just short of the goal line.
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) September 15, 2019
That stop preserved the win for Houston and dropped the Jags 0-2.
After the game was done, Marrone met with the media and almost immediately was asked about the risk he took going for the two-point conversion, especially on a road. Marone answered that he had been contemplating going for two the entire time the Jags were driving inside the final two minutes.
Doug Marrone said he made the decision before the final drive that if the #Jaguars scored he was going to go for two.
— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) September 15, 2019
As for Fournette, he said postgame that he felt like he had reached the ball across the goal line, but briefly, to give Jacksonville a 14 – 13 lead. Alas, the officials didn’t see it and replays couldn’t clearly show him getting the ball across.
No matter that goes as a loss, Marrone was trying to win a game that his team had no business being in.
This is especially, with the loss of QB Nick Foles to a broken clavicle last week, and then, not playing the game with the likes of DE Yannick Ngakoue, DB A.J. Bouye, WR Marqise Lee and LT Cam Robinson, who are all injured and still trying to recover.
So, shorthanded, and off a season that fell apart at 5-11 last year, Marrone sent the message to his team: “I want to win, right now.”
But. the Texans stopped it.
Yes, you can question the play call/formation to hand Fournette the ball.
However, you cannot argue with a coach showing guts to go for victory, when his team needs a spark.
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