As the Jaguars prepare to play the Texans Sunday, there are many questions surrounding the team. The biggest “elephant in the room” is the play of QB Blake Bortles and how long he can hold on to his shaky grasp of the starting job.
The next big question has to be, what’s the lead running back situation? And, most importantly if you play fantasy football, who gets the all important carries on the goal line?
Getting coach Doug Marrone to reveal anything specific about what the Jaguars intend to do is comparable to trying to turn a Russian spy under torture. So, we are left to use educated speculation.
We know that by drafting Leonard Fournette, known for his battering ram toughness, yet broken field speed at LSU, with the fourth overall pick last April, the Jags clearly want him to be the guy. Yet, after looking impressive in his debut, Fournette already suffered a foot injury during Jacksonville’s first preseason game with the Patriots and has not seen the field in a game since.
So, it’s not far fetched to surmise that Fournette will be worked into the backfield in the first half of this game and maybe the first few games, likely seeing more carries as the game goes on.
And that brings us to the veteran option that we have written about throughout the off season and now the preseason, Chris Ivory.
Entering his eighth season, Ivory, the former Saint and Jet, will likely start and see significant playing time not only in this first game, but early in the season, too. He’s two years removed from a 1,000 yard season with seven rushing TDs in New York.
Ivory is 29 years old and comes of a 2016 where he only started one game, had only 117 total carries (three rushing TDs) and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, the lowest of his career.
Now, the Jags were a disaster on offense last year, firing offensive coordinator Greg Olson early in the season, and finished with one of the worst run games in the NFL. So, how much can you judge what Ivory still has early in a season and in certain situations? We, and likely the Jaguars themselves, don’t know.
Just expect for this Houston game, he will get chances, especially early. When Fournette didn’t play in the second or third preseason games, Ivory carried the ball seven times (for a dismal four yards) in the first half vs. the Bucs, and 10 times for 36 yards the next week against the Panthers starters.
Now, those are pitiful run numbers, but a. it’s preseason b. the Jags QB situation and offensive line have been bad and in flux and C. clearly, the Jags are now game planning for this game that means something. So, again, it will likely be Ivory seeing the rock some in the first half.
As for third year back T.J. Yeldon from Alabama, he hurt his hamstring in the first quarter of that second preseason game with Tampa Bay and did not play again in August. This coming off a 2016, where he carried the ball around the same as Ivory (130 times), but averaged an even less 3.6 yards per carry and scored only once.
Again, the Jags were awful on offense, so it’s tough to judge these backs completely.
But with Yeldon listed as questionable to even play against the Texans, it looks like Ivory and Fournette will be the guys Sunday and maybe, for the foreseeable future.
To summarize, the Jaguars didn’t draft Fournette to have him sit behind anyone for very long. So eventually, health permitting, you will see him getting 15-20 or more carries. It just may not be right away.
And Chris Ivory is the guy that benefits starting Sunday in Houston.