JACKSONVILLE – John DeFilippo likes many things about Leonard Fournette.
Those things include the third-year running back's receiving abilities. Fournette has shown those abilities in two NFL seasons, and he has continued to show them so far in 2019 Training Camp.
DeFilippo, the Jaguars' first-year offensive coordinator, said that's important.
"That's a role that position needs to play," DeFilippo said Wednesday on Day 6 of '19 camp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.
DeFilippo had his first media availability of '19 camp Wednesday, discussing multiple topics we'll cover later in this story. His thoughts on Fournette stood out because of the potential importance of Fournette to quarterback Nick Foles and the passing offense.
Having running backs produce out of the backfield is key to DeFilippo's scheme, and he and Foles both have discussed the importance in recent months.
"There are pass plays [in DeFilippo's scheme] that are extensions of your running game," DeFilippo said. "If you throw that guy a wide route, it's basically like tossing a football trying to circle the defense."
Fournette's skills long have been underrated in this area. He has caught 58 passes for 487 yards and two touchdowns in two NFL seasons, and DeFilippo on Wednesday made clear Fournette will have ample receiving opportunities this season.
"He has caught numerous balls each day in practice," DeFilippo said. "I don't want to say it's going to be a huge piece of our offense, but that's a credit to Leonard because we're trying to find different, unique ways to get him the football – not just handing it to him."
DeFilippo on Wednesday also discussed:
*The task of the Jaguars' offense in practice facing a defense that has ranked in the Top 5 of the NFL the past two seasons: "I think we're holding our own just fine. The first thing I told our players was, 'This offense is going to be built around passion, energy and swagger. Part of having a swagger to you is you don't take a backseat to anybody.' That doesn't mean we go out and cheap shot our own guys. We play to the whistle. We play clean. We stay up. We protect each other. We're a team once we leave this field. But there is a lot of competition in a lot of spots going right now on both sides of the ball."
*The progress of Jaguars players learning the offensive scheme: "In terms of getting lined up, especially the younger guys, they're starting to pick it up – which has been good. It will be interesting to see what happens when the lights go on and that's the true test. I want to see what happens when the lights turned on next Thursday in Baltimore [in the 2019 preseason opener.]"
*Foles' leadership: "You see these guys following Nick. I think Nick is just a natural leader. Nick cares about people – and outside the building. He's going to be the guy that asks about your kids, about your family … how's your day doing. Like [Head] Coach [Doug] Marrone's been stressing... earning trust and communication with each other. I think Nick has really taken that to heart and really tried to be a prime example of that."
*Veteran wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., who signed as a free agent shortly before the end of the offseason program: "He's playing a lot faster. You still felt him kind of gliding a little bit at times in the spring, just because he was a little bit unsure. But he has been in a lot of this offense before. He just needed to dust the rust off a little and you see him the last couple of days making plays."
*The Jaguars' tight end position. DeFilippo first discussed rookie tight end Josh Oliver, a third-round selection from San Jose State who will have an opportunity to contribute immediately as a receiver. "It's a constant battle for Josh to be assignment perfect," DeFilippo said "You're never going to be assignment perfect, but you're striving every day to be assignment perfect. The game is starting to slow down for him. It still needs to slow down some more. He needs to challenge himself on an every-day basis, like he is, to come out and get better every day." DeFilippo also discussed Geoff Swaim, a fifth-year veteran who signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason after catching 26 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown in nine games last season in his fourth season with the Dallas Cowboys. "I've been really impressed with Geoff," DeFilippo said. "He's playing at a really good level right now, and we're really pleased with his progress."