OTAs Day 2: Foles says backs key in passing offense

JACKSONVILLE – Nick talked on Thursday.

That made for a big day around the Jaguars, because “Nick” is quarterback Nick Foles – and when new quarterbacks talk, people listen.

And while Foles offered only a few newsy nuggets during his first media availability of 2019 organized team activities, a couple of those nuggets provided hints about the new direction of the Jaguars’ offense.

“I like where we are now,” Foles said Thursday following the Jaguars’ second practice of 2019 organized team activities at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex outside TIAA Bank Field.

One hint: The offense under Foles and new coordinator John DeFilippo figures to heavily feature running backs in the passing offense.

“Backs are going to catch a lot of balls,” Foles said.

That will make the search for a reliable receiving back out of the backfield important. The Jaguars overhauled the running back position in the offseason, with starter Leonard Fournette the only player at the position returning from last season.

“Leonard’s a tremendous running back,” Foles said. “He’s a guy who’s working to get better every day and grow – obviously as a leader and as a player. I’m excited to see him run full speed in a game, but right now – seeing him move – he’s a bigger back. He’s strong. He’s got great feet. He’s going to do a lot of great things for us.”

Fournette, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, has 58 receptions for 487 yards and two touchdowns in two NFL seasons. The Jaguars also like the potential of seven-year veteran Benny Cunningham as a receiver out of the backfield; he has 114 career receptions for 1,001 yards and three touchdowns.

“They’ve done a good job,” Foles said. “The backs have to realize: I can’t tell you where the ball’s going until the play snaps. I can’t tell you. I have an idea in my brain, but I still have to read and react and play what the defense does.

“If you look at history, I like getting the ball to the backs at different times. They are a huge part of the offense – getting them out in a five-man pro, getting them in empty formation … If their protection check doesn’t come, getting them out so we have another guy down there. If we check it down, they have to get the first down.

“They’ve really done a good job. It’s a great start.”

Foles also discussed the installation of the offensive scheme under DeFilippo, a process that started in mid-April at the beginning of the voluntary offseason program. DeFilippo was hired in Jaguars with Foles signing as an unrestricted free agent in March.

The two worked together in Philadelphia in 2017, with DeFilippo serving as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach that season and Foles being named Super Bowl LII Most Valuable Player after the season.

“There’s obviously a lot of new stuff,” Foles said, “but we’ve been able to go through the install a few times and Flip does a great job of describing it. [Quarterbacks coach] Scott [Milanovich] does a great job in the QB room of really going into more details on the plays.

“Guys are doing a good job of picking up the installation. We still have a ways to go. I still have a ways to go. There’s still so much for me to learn.”

Foles was asked if the offense was similar to what he and DeFilippo ran in Philadelphia.

“There are some similarities, but there are enough differences to be different – if that makes any sense,” Foles said.

Images from the second day of organized team activities held on Thursday.

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