O-Zone: Back to normal

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bob from Sumter, SC

Last season I saw Fournette as a guy who didn't have great vision in finding holes, rarely made people miss when he got to the secondary, got caught from behind in the open field and rarely made something happen on his own. Surprised at the timing of his release, but he never lived up to the hype. If he was at all a pain in other ways, might as well move on.

Running back Leonard Fournette will have a tricky legacy with the Jaguars. In one sense, he was critical to the franchise's best season in the last decade or so – the 2017 season that ended with the loss to New England in the AFC Championship Game. Without him, the Jaguars don't beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh in the regular season that year – and they don't beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the postseason without him that season, either. He also was crucial to the team's identity that season. While the defense keyed the season, Fournette's physicality and speed – and his confidence – seemed to inject the entire team with a confidence. When he waved at safety Mike Mitchell in Pittsburgh? When he dove over the pile at the goal line in the same game? Those were special moments. At the same time, you're not alone in your assessment of him the last two seasons. And while he was key to one special season, the Jaguars took a major risk in that 2017 NFL Draft by going against conventional wisdom and selecting a running back No. 4 overall. They did so because the theme was "Win Now" – or "win lunch," as it were. They won lunch, but they also passed on quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, so the "lunch victory" led to long-term issues that have the franchise where it is now. So, no … Fournette never really lived up to the hype. And the franchise now is very much in a restart/rebuild … whatever you call it. His departure makes that even more true.

Howard from Homestead, FL

Players and coaches don't tank. It's detrimental to their careers. But front offices can absolutely tank by shipping off playmakers, ensuring that the team is outmatched, no matter how hard they try. That's what we're seeing.

The Jaguars don't believe they're getting worse by waiving Fournette because they believe the running backs on the roster will be as good. They also believed most of the high-profile players traded this offseason – particularly end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye – weren't playing as well by last season as when they first arrived with the team in 2017. The overall belief of those building and coaching the team is it can be better this season than last. We'll see. And as far as front offices ensuring teams tank by shipping off players, don't forget: This was what many observers believed the Miami Dolphins were doing in the 2019 offseason. The Dolphins continued saying they weren't tanking. They then proceeded to win too many games to get the No. 1 selection because … they weren't tanking. Just because observers believe something doesn't make it true.

Ron from Orlando, FL

What the hell.

You're going to have to be more specific.

Eric from Duval

Just curious if you support the recent moves made by the front office recently and if you trust that the decisions Mr. Caldwell is making will benefit the Jaguars or sink them for another decade?

I don't support or not support moves the Jaguars make. I do think the moves made by General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone since the firing of Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin last December have made sense in terms of getting the salary cap back in order and moving toward building a talented young roster. I think the core of players acquired in the last two or three drafts have a chance to form that talented young roster. If Gardner Minshew II proves to be a franchise quarterback – or if the Jaguars can find one in the draft in the coming seasons – then the Jaguars can grow into a strong team. If they can't find a quarterback, they will continue to struggle.

Terry from Cordele, GA

Hindsight is 2020, and the sooner we get 2020 behind us the better for more reasons than one. But I digress. When it comes to former Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, I agree that "it's unsurprising the Jaguars couldn't get a first-round selection in the trade. While Ngakoue is a very good pass rusher he has not yet established himself as an elite edge defender." Couldn't the same be true of Fournette on the offensive side? He had yet to establish himself as that game changer. While a good back, he is not a great back. But, do you think he is a great backup? Who will sign him? I await the answer from your crystal ball.

Yes, the same is true of Fournette as Ngakoue; he never established himself elite – though Ngakoue is clearly a better player at his position than Fournette. As for Fournette's future, I think he can be a starter in the NFL. He absolutely would be a great backup. I don't know who will sign him.

Sam from Nottingham, UK

I don't expect an honest answer because it would in conflict to the guy who pays your wages. However, I'll ask it. To what extent is the completely nonsensical, bamboozling decision to release Fournette a financial decision made by ownership? This very much feels like Khan has put an "artificial salary cap" in place this year which DC and DM had to abide by if they wanted to keep their jobs! Complete nonsense.

You're right that I won't answer it. But it's not that it would "conflict" with Jaguars Owner Shad Khan. It's that one glance at the high-dollar contracts given by the Jaguars during Khan's tenure as owner reveals the complete nonsense that is the premise of the question.

Gary from Fleming Island, FL

I'm sure you are tired of hearing about it, but with the end zone slogan painting now I will not be watching any games live or TV. It breaks my heart.

If words against racism break your heart … or if they prevent you from watching something on television … if your mind recoils from that so intensely … well …

Shon from San Antonio, TX

KOAF, what is the direction of this team? Feels like we're going in the wrong direction. The season hasn't started, and I know we will never be bad enough to get the first pick of the draft. The teams not that bad and I don't think our division is that good. Top 10, maybe but not even Top 3. Enlighten the fan base. Post Yann and LF, are the Jaguars better today than this time last week?

The team hopes the direction is a young team keyed by players such as defensive end Josh Allen, right tackle Jawaan Taylor and wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. – and by veterans such as center Brandon Linder and linebacker Myles Jack. And by rookies with potential such as wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., cornerback CJ Henderson and defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson. And, of course, Minshew. There's a feeling that a lot of those players can form a core, that they're the kinds of players around which a team can build. That's the long-term hope. As for your final question … no, the Jaguars aren't better today than last week. They're not better without Ngakoue than they were with him.

Michael from Middleburg, FL

O, It's a running back for Pete's sake. There are plenty of them that can highly function as long as they have an offensive line to open holes. None of them are "super studs enough to do it without." I, for one, am glad that more than half of an offense isn't based on one player, unless it's a quarterback.

Fair.

Bruce from Trevorburg

What does Doug say to the locker room?

That the Jaguars want the best players who are buying into a team-first concept. That was what he said to the team before 2020 Training Camp began and I doubt he will change that message.

Howard from Homestead, FL

So, the Jags said, "We'll give you a 1,600 yard-from-scrimmage back for a conditional seventh rounder which you only give up if he becomes your Super Bowl MVP." The rest of the league said, "No." Seriously? How are we supposed to believe he wasn't worth anything?

Because there wasn't a trade.

Jerell from Columbia, SC

I have been thinking and I see the jags going 1-15 now. This team is tanking. I don't think Doug is, but the personal people are tanking by not giving him the talent he needs to compete.

Welcome back at long last, Jerell. I've missed you. O-Zone readers have missed you. Your country has missed you.

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