Jags’ latest odd call: Fournette on sideline in crunch time
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Leonard Fournette spent most of the second half on the sideline, a spectator in a tight game.
Jacksonville’s best offensive player and one of five team captains touched the ball once in the final 30 minutes — a 25-yard carry in the fourth quarter.
It made no sense, not even for the dysfunctional Jaguars.
Coach Doug Marrone said the plan all week was to take a look at undrafted rookie Dave Williams, who carried five times for 32 yards in a 16-13 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
“We wanted to see Williams in there,” said Marrone, whose team has dropped nine of its last 10. “He’s had a good week of practice. He’s been here working hard, so we just wanted to see him in there and see what he can do.”
It was the latest head-scratching move for a franchise that should be desperate for wins. Maybe the Jaguars (4-10) have a different agenda, one that’s more concerned about the future — maybe even getting a top-five draft pick — than avoiding further failure this season.
Here’s what Jacksonville has done in recent weeks:
—Benched quarterback Blake Bortles and replaced him with Cody Kessler . Bortles didn’t play well before he was benched, but Kessler has managed one touchdown in 31 drives over the last three games.
—Benched defensive tackle Malik Jackson in favor of Abry Jones and rookie Taven Bryan. Jackson has been a disappointment since making the Pro Bowl last season, but no defensive improvements have been made with Jones and Bryan.
—Benched and later waived veteran safety Barry Church . It’s hard to argue with moving on from Church, a 30-year-old defensive back who clearly had lost a step. But after losing rookie Ronnie Harrison (knee) and Jarrod Wilson (ankle) against the Redskins, special teams ace Cody Davis ended up on the field for Washington’s two scoring drives in the fourth quarter.
—Made running back Carlos Hyde a healthy scratch against Washington, a clear sign his days in Jacksonville are done. The Jaguars traded a fifth-round pick to Cleveland for Hyde in October, and he’s due to make $4.75 million in 2019.
“We think those players have worked extremely hard and that they give enough that we’re not losing much with them, so we want to get up there and see what they can do,” Marrone said. “That’s exactly what the thought process is.”
Marrone insists he has no assurances he will be back next season, making his most curious personnel decisions seems even stranger.
With Kessler playing behind a makeshift offensive line — the Jaguars have one O-line starter, right guard A.J. Cann, remaining from the season opener — Fournette would seem like the team’s best option against the Redskins. After all, Marrone even had Fournette returning kickoffs for the first time since his freshman year at LSU.
But Fournette finished with 11 carries for 46 yards and three catches for 18 yards.
“I don’t know how many I had, to be honest,” said Fournette, who missed six games early in the season because of an injury and another because of a suspension. “It’s all about winning at the end of the day.”
Kessler completed 9 of 17 passes for 57 yards, with an interception that set up the winning field goal and a fumble that set up Washington’s first score. Kessler also was the team’s leading rusher with 68 yards.
Fournette watched most of the game unfold from the bench.
“We tried to fight back, but like I said, at the end of the day it’s the little things that separate the winners and the losers,” Fournette said. “It’s hard. It’s very hard, especially with how the season gone. Just got to keep fighting.”