JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jaguars management, including executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, met with running back Leonard Fournette on Wednesday, and the group discussed his disappointing season and plans for the future, a league source confirmed.
The NFL Network first reported the meeting.
There are questions about Fournette’s maturity, commitment to football, conditioning, on-field behavior and production after the 2018 season. There was some speculation that the team would be willing to trade — or cut — him in the offseason.
Fournette certainly hasn’t lived up to being the fourth overall selection in 2017. He missed seven games this past season because of injuries, was suspended for another, had several off-field issues and let himself get out of shape. The season ended on a sour note when Coughlin publicly criticized Fournette (who was inactive because of a foot injury) and T.J. Yeldon for sitting alone on the bench and acting disinterested during the season finale. Coughlin said they were “disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player.”
That capped an awful year for Fournette. One season after missing two games with injuries, Fournette missed six full games and half of two others with a right hamstring injury in the first eight weeks and there was mounting frustration inside the organization about the length of his absence. The Jaguars built the offense around a power-run game and the offense had a hard time functioning consistently without Fournette on the field.
All that time away apparently impacted his conditioning. He ended the season heavier than when he reported for training camp, when he said he was down to 223 pounds (his lowest weight since his sophomore season at LSU). The CBS broadcast crew during the Week 16 game against Miami said Fournette, who reported at 240 pounds as a rookie in 2017, told them he was 233 pounds.
It’s unusual for an NFL player to gain weight during the season, and Fournette was unable to do much, if any, conditioning during the time he was rehabbing his hamstring. He did admit that he could be in better shape.
Fournette was suspended without pay for leaving the bench and fighting with Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars’ 24-21 loss at Buffalo on Nov. 25. Fournette said he ran across the field because he saw Lawson shove Carlos Hyde and wanted to defend his teammate. It’s the second time Fournette has missed a game because of disciplinary reasons. The team made him inactive for one game as a rookie as punishment for leaving Jacksonville early and missing a team photo during the bye week.
Fournette also was caught on video yelling at a fan in the stands during the team’s embarrassing loss to Tennessee on Dec. 6. The video clip released on TMZ.com showed Fournette yelling that he was going to “beat your ass” at an unknown fan before two people escorted Fournette away.
The Jaguars put him on the bench late in the season because of his lack of production. He didn’t have a carry in the third quarter against Washington in Week 15 and he had one carry in the fourth quarter and left the game after hurting his foot. That left rookie David Williams — who was playing in just his fourth game — to carry the ball.
Fournette also wasn’t on the field when the Jaguars were trying to run out the clock against Miami late in the fourth quarter the next week. Those carries went to Hyde, who had five carries for 37 yards on the Jaguars’ final possession. Fournette, who ran for 7 yards on the first play of the drive before leaving the game, finished with 43 yards on 18 carries (2.4 yards per carry).
Fournette finished his second season with 439 yards and five touchdowns rushing and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in the eight games in which he played. He ran for more than 53 yards just twice and never surpassed 95 yards rushing in any game. It is the first time Fournette has failed to record at least one 100-yard game in a season since before his time at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans.
He rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry as an NFL rookie.