We finally got to see starters on offense for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third preseason game Thursday night at Miami. And while most were anxious to see star free agent quarterback Nick Foles behind center for the first time, they also had to be pleased to not only see RB Leonard Fournette out with the first team, but running and looking like the Leonard Fournette of two years ago.
No, the stats were not spectacular, but in his first game action of August, Fournette ran with the same punishing style that helped him gain over 1,000 yards in his rookie year of 2017. He finished with seven carries for 27 yards, including a slashing 12 yard run in the first half.
Then, Fournette added another two catches for 19 yards, including a 15-yard her where he delivered a blow downfield on a Dolphins defensive back early on in the third quarter.
Again, all of this is being done in a preseason game, where both teams are trying to show much and most of all try not to get their players injured. However, after the 2018 the four that had any positive on field performance is going to be taken as improvement.
He injured his hamstring in the opening game with the Giants last year, and then, miss parts or all of six more games after that due to the injury. Fournette was also ejected from a November loss at Buffalo for fighting with bills defensive end Shaq Lawson. He was then suspended for the following game by the NFL for his actions.
Couple that with an off season arrest in Jacksonville for speeding and then, having unpaid parking tickets, and some have wondered whether Fournette’s days were numbered in North Florida?
Obviously, the front office led by VP of football Tom Coughlin, GM Chris Grier and Coach Doug Marrone have all expressed concern about Fournette continuing to work hard and get back on track.
The Jags brought Foles in to open up the pass offense down the field, but that will also likewise help run lanes open up for # 27, too.
Marrone singled out Fournette in his postgame news conference Thursday night, for how hard he’s worked in this offseason:
Coach Marrone on @_fournette:
"I think he's ready to have a heck of a year." pic.twitter.com/CbYSbnLkuL
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 23, 2019
So, we won’t see him in the preseason finale’ next week, but for the opener with the Chiefs at home September 8th, Jags fans have to be encouraged. Thursday night, Fournette looked like he’s ready to have a good, if not great 2019, as Jacksonville tries to rebound from a 5 – 11 season
Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?
One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.
Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) February 26, 2020
This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.
Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″
It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:
Doug Marrone: ‘’No doubt where I stand or the coaches.”
—They want Yannick Ngakoue back. pic.twitter.com/vOorH4hH95
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 26, 2020
However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially, put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?
Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.
If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.
Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus
At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.
Caldwell confirmed the Jaguars are not picking up DT Marcell Dareus' option.
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 25, 2020
Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.
Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.
Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.
However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.
Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.
However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.
Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.
As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?