Coughlin speaks: “Leonard has made great progress”

FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2019, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) rushes for yardage against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game, in Jacksonville, Fla. Fournette had a series of meetings and calls this week after carrying the ball a season-low eight times in a 20-point loss to Indianapolis. The most notable of them was chatting with 1981 Heisman Trophy winner and retired Oakland Raiders star Marcus Allen, who told the third-year pro about his experience having to play fullback and share a backfield with fellow Heisman winner Bo Jackson more than 30 years ago. “His situation was harder than mine,â��� said Fournette, who first met Allen during a recruiting visit to USC while he was in high school.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2019, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) rushes for yardage against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game, in Jacksonville, Fla. Fournette had a series of meetings and calls this week after carrying the ball a season-low eight times in a 20-point loss to Indianapolis. The most notable of them was chatting with 1981 Heisman Trophy winner and retired Oakland Raiders star Marcus Allen, who told the third-year pro about his experience having to play fullback and share a backfield with fellow Heisman winner Bo Jackson more than 30 years ago. “His situation was harder than mine,â��� said Fournette, who first met Allen during a recruiting visit to USC while he was in high school.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

JACKSONVILLE – In Leonard Fournette, Tom Coughlin sees what many see:

Progress.

A third-year running back for the Jaguars, Fournette is on pace for his best NFL season. He also has made a remarkable off-field turnaround from a 2018 season that included suspensions and a late-season reprimand. Coughlin, the Jaguars’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations, was the one doing the reprimanding last season.

On Wednesday, he acknowledged Fournette’s development.

“Leonard has made great progress along this line,” Coughlin said as the Jaguars (4-7) prepared to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

Coughlin, speaking to Jacksonville media for the first time this season, was asked on Wednesday about multiple Jaguars issues. We’ll cover most of those answers later in this story. But he was comparatively expansive when asked about Fournette.

Fournette, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, had well-publicized issues in his first two seasons. Head Coach Doug Marrone held him out of a game in his rookie season for disciplinary reasons, and he was suspended for a game last season following his involvement in an on-field altercation in Buffalo. His sideline behavior while inactive in the regular-season finale in Houston was such that Coughlin issued a statement calling the conduct of Fournette and running back T.J. Yeldon “unbecoming of a professional football player.”

Fournette has avoided any such issues this season and is sixth in the NFL with 951 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 206 carries.

“Doug has done a great job with all of the players on this team,” Coughlin said. “The extension as you well know [from Marrone to Fournette] was trust and communication and he has done a great job with that. And Leonard in return has been one who has communicated. [Running backs coach] Terry Robiskie and Leonard have worked together to be a really solid part of our team.”

Other topics in Coughlin’s Wednesday availability:

*On a Jaguars run defense that has allowed more than 200 yards rushing in each of the last three games: “There are a lot of reasons for that: gap integrity, mental errors, not attacking the line of scrimmage, not being in the right place at the right time, getting blocked. There are many things involved. What can take place to be improved is to take care of some of the things I just mentioned: be better-disciplined, hold your position, understand what you’re supposed to be doing, containment, fundamentally sound approach to all your responsibility. Is it easy? No. Of course it isn’t.” …

*On if he was unhappy with Marrone’s preseason approach of playing players sparingly to avoid injury: “That would be between Doug and I, and it’s not for anyone else.” …

*On the early-season trade of Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams and whether he tried to mend his relationship with the cornerback: “I’m not going to speak about Jalen. He’s no longer part of our team and he’s a member of another team.” …

*On the possibility of retired linebacker Telvin Smith returning to the Jaguars: “I have heard nothing.”

*On the team’s struggles defensively overall: “There are a lot of things involved in that.”

*On whether front office overestimated talent on this year’s team: “I don’t think so. It’s always a combination of things. Do you need more players? Sure you do. But you always do. You look around the league. You’ll see that for most teams?”

*On the team’s culture: “I think it’s pretty solid for what we’re going through.” …

*On a potential contract extension for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue: “That’s not for discussion today, and it wouldn’t be in this setting anyway.” …

*On the job performance of Marrone: “As I keep saying, we have five games to go and then there certainly will be evaluation of everybody.” …

*On the play this season of quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who went 4-4 before being replaced by veteran Nick Foles two games ago: “We have two very good quarterbacks. We’re very fortunate.”

*On Foles and the decision to play him instead of Minshew: “He’s only played two games. He didn’t play in preseason and played two football games. Gardner played very well and did not play well in London. Nick was ready to come back. That was the basis of the decision at that time.” …

*On linebacker Myles Jack: “He played better the other night, I thought – just continuing to understand what his responsibilities are an improve everyone has to ask that of themselves. This time of year, we should be improving as players and as a team.” …

*On the play of guard Andrew Norwell and defensive tackle Taven Bryan: “We’ve all got to get better and if we do that, perhaps we can correct this position we’re in. It’s not just for those two.” …

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