MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – All signs are positive.
That wasn’t always case with Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette in his first two NFL seasons, but it’s absolutely true heading into this one.
“I think he's ready to have a heck of a year, in my opinion,” Doug Marrone said.
Those were Marrone’s words Thursday night following a 22-7 loss to the Dolphins in a Preseason Week 3 game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida – a game that likely will mark Fournette’s lone appearance of the preseason.
The third-year running back rushed for 27 yards on seven carries and caught two passes for 19 yards. He played a little more than a quarter, saying afterward he feels he and the team are ready for the regular season.
“I feel good,” Fournette said. “We’ve worked together throughout the entire camp. I believe Coach Doug has done a tremendous job of communicating with the players what he expects and what he wants – and also the players, what they expect out of themselves.
“We’re pushing each other. I think everybody has that mindset that we want to be back where we were. That’s a good thing.”
Fournette rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie before rushing for 439 yards and five touchdowns during a 2018 season in which he missed eight games – seven because of injury and one because of a suspension.
Fournette ran with authority on multiple runs Thursday night, and seemed to get stronger on his final two series. He had a 12-yard run on the Jaguars’ third series and a 15-yard reception on their fourth series, after which the starters left the game.
“I'm not going to go back to a year ago or anything like that,” Marrone said. “I just look at how he's been since he reported to camp. He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's taken a ton of reps, he's worked extremely hard, he's been a great finisher in practice.
“It doesn't surprise me that he went out there and did those types of things.”
Marrone, who expressed worry over the team’s depth following a Preseason Week 1 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, voiced the same concern Thursday when discussing left tackle. Starting left tackle Cam Robinson left Thursday’s game after six plays, the number of plays the team planned to play him in his first game back after missing the last 14 games last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Backup left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi left the game on his first series with a hamstring injury, and Ogbuehi’s replacement – Leonard Wester – allowed a pressure that forced quarterback Nick Foles into an interception on the Jaguars’ fourth offensive series. “We got another guy hurt, you know what I'm saying?” Marrone said. “A left tackle. I think that's a great question. I know that we don't have much depth and if I get anyone injured, I'm in trouble. I was going through it tonight with Cam only playing six and him coming back and the next guy gets hurt and I'm down to the third left tackle again. It's a bad, bad, bad feeling. I think obviously we're trying to develop depth on this team, and obviously you see that we have a long way to go with that. I feel better about the starters.”
Among the players happy to see Robinson return: Fournette, who said Robinson’s presence was felt Thursday although the third-year veteran played just two series. “It felt good seeing my man Big Cam back out there,” Fournette said. “I missed him in the huddle. He’s going to be back and [wide receiver] Marqise [Lee] is going to be back. Just getting people back in the right places feels good.”
Thursday was an impressive performance for the Jaguars’ defense overall. The Jaguars starters held the Dolphins to 10 yards on 14 offensive plays, forcing three-and-outs on the first three possessions. The Dolphins managed a first down on their fourth possession after an offside penalty on linebacker Myles Jack turned third-and-5 into a first down. The Jaguars forced a Miami punt three plays later. “I thought overall defensively they did a nice job,” Marrone said of the defense.