JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser’s Thursday notes and observations: Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett discusses RB Leonard Fournette, defensive coordinator Todd Wash discusses CB D.J. Hayden and LB Telvin Smith discusses confidence …
1.Nathaniel Hackett’s waiting and seeing. “We’re going to play it by ear, see how he is,” the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator said Thursday when asked how the team might use running back Leonard Fournette against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday. Fournette, who has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury, practiced Wednesday and Thursday. His return could give the Jaguars not only needed yards in the running game, but the ability for the offense to power run on early downs it largely has lacked in his absence. Fournette in two games this season has rushed 20 times for 71 yards, rushing 11 times for 30 yards in a little less than a half in his last appearance – a 31-12 victory over the New York Jets on September 30. “If he can handle it (a heavy load), great,” Hackett said. “If not, we’ll ease him into it. It’s definitely going to be a feel thing for him. It’s good we have two other guys (running backs Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon) behind him.”
2.Cornerbacks D.J. Hayden and Tyler Patmon are getting healthy. That’s good timing for a Jaguars secondary that likely will be without starting cornerback A.J. Bouye (calf) for a second consecutive week. Hayden signed in the offseason to play nickel corner following the departure of nickel Aaron Colvin as an unrestricted free agent to the Houston Texans. Hayden missed the final six games before the Jaguars’ Week 9 bye weekend this past weekend with a toe injury, and Patmon – who was playing in Hayden’s place for five games – missed the Jaguars’ Week 8 loss to Philadelphia with a neck injury. With Bouye, Hayden and Patmon all out against Philadelphia, rookie undrafted free agent Quenton Meeks started opposite All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey with rookie undrafted free agent Tre Herndon at nickel. Hayden and Patmon’s return could allow the Jaguars to move Patmon outside opposite Ramsey and strengthen a Jaguars nickel position that was weakened with Hayden’s injury. “It adds to our depth,” Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. “We feel we have some quality depth back there. We’ve played good pass defense for most of the year even with some of the injuries we’ve had. We feel very comfortable with either of those three (Bouye, Patmon and Hayden) playing.” Wash also said second-year veteran Dawuane Smoot could get an opportunity at defensive end along with veteran Lerentee McCray in the wake of Dante Fowler Jr. being traded to the Los Angeles Rams last week. “Both of those guys are going to be in the rotation,” Wash said. “We’re going to be able to see exactly where we’re at with our depth at D-line.”
3.As Telvin Smith sees it, the Jaguars’ confidence remains high. “If you are who you are, then you never forget that,” the 2017 second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection said. Smith, fifth-year weak-side linebacker and defensive captain, has said throughout the Jaguars’ four-game losing streak he remains confident the team will salvage the season – and he maintained that stance speaking the media Thursday. “It’s basically on us,” Smith said. “People get so caught up in the circumstances and what’s gone on – outside of what has gone on. A strong person and a strong individual understands the moment and seizes it.” Smith, who was added to the injury report with a shoulder injury Wednesday, aid his shoulder “feels good” – although he said it was a factor during a 24-18 Week 8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles shortly before this past Sunday’s bye. “It was a small factor,” Smith said. “It affected a couple of plays, but I adjusted to it and got mentally right. I’m getting right this week and I’ll be ready to go. I don’t dwell on it, because everybody’s facing something.”
4.Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and Fournette were among three players practicing full for a second consecutive day Thursday, with Bortles working through a non-throwing shoulder injury and Fournette working through the hamstring issues that kept him out six of the last seven games. Hayden worked full for a second consecutive day Thursday. Working limited in practice Thursday: tight end James O’Shaughnessy (hip), Smith (shoulder) and McCray (hamstring). Meeks (knee) and Bouye (calf) missed practice for a second consecutive day and nose tackle Eli Ankou (calf) missed practice after sustaining an injury in practice Wednesday.