Time To Make A Change
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette said he sees more accountability and commitment through the first three days of training camp than what he said he saw during the 2018 season.
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Fournette said the Jaguars didn’t approach the 2018 season with the proper intensity and mindset after their surprising run to the AFC Championship Game the year before, and that attitude played a large role in a disappointing 5-11 season. There was an element of, “We’ve arrived,” and, well, they hadn’t.
“I think we appreciate last season overall,” Fournette said Saturday. “I feel like a lot of things, individually, we all could have done to get ourselves in better shape confidence-wise coming off a great season in 2017. I think last year kind of humbled a lot of us in some ways.”
The Jaguars started out 3-1 — including a 31-20 victory over New England in Week 2 — but the season quickly fell apart because of numerous injuries along the offensive line and at tight end, poor quarterback play from Blake Bortles, and a hamstring injury that kept Fournette out of the lineup for six full games and parts of two others.
The Jaguars lost seven consecutive games, got embarrassed on national television against Tennessee when running back Derrick Henry ripped off a 99-yard TD run, and scored just two offensive touchdowns in the final five games. A team that was a trendy pick to make the Super Bowl won just two games after beating the New York Jets on Sept. 30.
Fournette said there were times when players didn’t put forth their best effort last season. It’s interesting that he would say that because there was concern about Fournette’s effort level, commitment, and maturity last season. In addition to missing games because of the hamstring injury, Fournette was suspended for another game after he left the bench and got into a fight with Buffalo defensive lineman Shaq Lawson, and he also was caught on camera yelling at a Tennessee fan during the Jaguars’ loss (he later claimed the fan had used a racial slur).
Fournette also missed the season finale against Houston because of a foot injury and executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin publicly ripped Fournette after the game for his demeanor on the sideline.
Fournette said in the spring he was concentrating on the upcoming season instead of dwelling on the past and he said Saturday that it seems his teammates are taking the same approach because he hasn’t noticed any of the problems he saw in 2018.
“You see in the way guys practice,” Fournette said. “Some guys who kind of [had a] lack of effort, they’re not showing it this year. So I think last season kind of woke a lot of guys up.”
That may be partly due to the fact that head coach Doug Marrone is taking a different approach to camp. The first 10 practices won’t be as physically intense as they have been the past two seasons, a change Marrone said was made in part to avoid injuries, and he has given the players extra down time during each day.
For example, the Jaguars have gone full pads in their third training camp practice each of the past two years, but they wore just helmets and shoulder pads on Saturday. The team will practice in full pads for the first time on Sunday.
Those changes give the players more leeway and so far Fournette said he hasn’t seen anyone taking any shortcuts.
“It’s kind of up to the leaders to make sure everyone follows what [Marrone] wants,” Fournette said. “Get them in line, get them intact, and also, just like I said, whatever he commands we just go through and repeat to all the players and we expect it to be done.”