JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser’s Wednesday notes and observations: RB Leonard Fournette’s role, how the Jaguars might utilize their three backs and the development of rookie WR DJ Chark Jr.
1.Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette practiced full Wednesday. As for how he will be used Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Head Coach Doug Marrone said time will tell. Fournette missed all four games with a hamstring injury during a four-game October losing streak, and Marrone said how Fournette fits into Sunday’s game plan will be determined “during the week.” Marrone added, “You learn the things that the players are doing out there and what they are doing well and where you want to feature them and you kind of ‘personnel’ it: make sure they get the right players out there doing the right things.” Fournette missed six of the last seven games, rushing 11 times for 30 yards in a Week 4 victory over the New York Jets before reaggravating the injury. Marrone was asked if the Jaguars would limit Fournette’s carries Sunday or take a “full-bore approach.” Marrone: “We are full-boring everybody. Once a guy is ready to play, that has to be our expectation. You get into trouble when you put a player on the field and he is not able to live up to the expectation that you have for him – meaning that all of a sudden now if something happens, it’s kind of like a built-in excuse. That’s the way I’ve always viewed it.” If they say, ‘I’m not 100 percent, I can’t do what’s expected of me’ … well, then, I can’t put him on the field.”
2.An intriguing storyline this week: how the Jaguars will use their running backs. The Jaguars have been unable during the regular season to use the two-back concepts they showed during the preseason. Injuries to Fournette and third-team running back Corey Grant helped take away that possibility, and Jaguars backs have yet to combine for a 100-yard rushing game during the 2018 regular season. Still, if Fournette is healthy Sunday, he – along with Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon – gives the Jaguars three healthy capable backs for the first time since Week 1. “We have three really good running backs in those two and T.J.,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. “I am sure there will be a plan. The coaches will have something in order in how to get those guys in there and get them touches and all that. I am more than happy handing it or throwing it to any of the three.”
3.DJ Chark Jr. on how he feels now compared to two months ago: “I feel like I’m light years ahead of where I was.” Chark, a rookie second-round wide receiver from Louisiana State, got 18 more snaps in a Week 8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in London than in any previous game this season, and could have an increased role in the second half of the season. “I was super-nervous, not knowing when I was getting in,” Chark said of his first few NFL games. “Having the chance to get out there now, knowing you’re going to be out there, knowing you’re going to get way more reps, knowing the team is counting on you … I’m more comfortable out there and I feel like the guys are more comfortable with me out there. I think that’s huge.” Chark, after catching two passes for 19 yards in the first four games of the season, has 10 receptions for 140 yards in the last four games. “It’s still football, but the mental aspect of the game is what you have to focus on,” he said. “If you’re thinking, you’re not playing as fast as you can. You want to make plays, but you don’t want to miss an assignment. That contributes to the way you play. Now that I’m more comfortable, I feel light years ahead of where I was.”
4.Bortles on Wednesday was asked if he believed he was playing for his NFL future over the next two months. The fifth-year veteran said he believed that was the case, but said he didn’t think that differentiated him from many NFL quarterbacks. “I think you always are,” Bortles said. “Playing quarterback in the NFL, it seems if you haven’t won a Super Bowl you are fighting every day to keep your job. I view it like that. I have to show up and earn my keep every day and winning football games is the only way to do it.” Bortles has completed 175 of 290 passes this season for 2,021 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Bortles, after throwing seven touchdowns with three interceptions during the Jaguars’ 3-1 start, threw three touchdowns with five interceptions in October.