The Jaguars dropped a bombshell on the NFL world Monday morning by placing Leonard Fournette on waivers, effectively parting ways with the 2017 fourth overall pick. A bold move indeed.
Jaguars' head coach Doug Marrone claims the move was unrelated to personality conflicts and strictly football-related.
"Let's not go ahead and say because someone did something before, maybe we'll get the same type of results, or things [of that nature]," said Marrone. "Really just trying to take the team and put the best team together for what we've seen in our practices. So at the end of the day, I just felt that was the best decision for us as a team. I think it gives us the best opportunity with the skill sets that we have with the other players in there. I just thought that was the best for the team; doing it now, we exhausted all trade opportunities. We weren't able to get anything there, so I just felt that now we can work on the team, the plan, and get ourselves ready for the season."
Marrone can say what he wants, but it's hard to believe someone with as much speed and power as Fournette doesn't make this young Jaguars' offense better. But that's now in the past. It's now time to focus on what the Jaguars' current stable of running backs looks like and what type of roles and production we might be able to expect from this group.
Doug Marrone told me on Monday: "Situation and matchup based [is how] I see it." So, it doesn't look like the Jaguars will have a true number one runner in 2020; instead, they'll be deployed based on the in-game situations and matchups. This is a common philosophy around the league in 2020.
I'll start with Chris Thompson, who has six-plus years of experience in Jay Gruden's offensive scheme. Thompson is not really an in-between the tackles runner; instead, he provides plenty of speed and quickness. He can bounce plays outside with ease. He'll also be heavily featured in the passing game, catching passes out of the backfield and even lining up out wide. Thompson has struggled with injuries throughout his career but has played in at least ten games in each of the last five seasons. When healthy, he'll be massively involved in the offensive game plan.
Looking at guys that can pound the rock up the middle, but also have the quickness and vision to bounce it outside, the Jaguars have two second-year runners that fit the bill: Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo. The Jaguars drafted Armstead in the fifth round of the 2019 draft, and he was Fournette's primary backup last season. Ozigbo went undrafted in 2019 but signed with the Saints before the Jaguars poached him from their practice squad. Both guys weigh in at over 220 pounds but have the athleticism and quickness to find holes and explode through them. They might not have the long speed of Leonard Fournette, but they should be able to grind out tough yards and make some guys miss on the second level. Armstead has missed some time in training camp, so Ozigbo may get more work early on in the season. Ozigbo stands 6'2'' tall, but he does an excellent job of getting low and not running with a high pad level, allowing him to play with leverage.
After that, the Jaguars have two undrafted rookies in James Robinson and Nathan Cottrell. I favor Robinson to make the team if the Jaguars keep four running backs, but it's unclear how they'll handle roster cuts this upcoming weekend. Robinson fits the mold of the bulky running back with foot quickness, while Cottrell weighs in at less than 200 pounds.
These Jaguars' running backs are inexperienced outside of Chris Thompson. But if there's one position in the NFL that doesn't require much experience, it's running back. Still, Armstead and Ozigbo have both spent a year with the Jaguars and seem to fit Gruden's offensive system well.
I don't see this as is one of the best backfields in football, but with solid offensive line play, this group has more than enough juice and versatility to get the job done on a regular basis.
One major concern I have is Ryquell Armstead's lack of reps in training camps. he's been dealing with various little ailments and illnesses throughout camp and hasn't seen the field much.
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