EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In explaining why the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette, executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin said they needed playmakers and “people to put the ball in the end zone.”
Yet when the Jaguars had a chance to do that late in regulation to beat the New York Jets on Sunday, Fournette was on the sideline.
Instead, it was Chris Ivory in the game when the Jaguars faced first-and-goal from the 6-yard line. It apparently was his turn in the rotation. Fournette had 18 carries and four catches at that point, and the Jaguars wanted to give him a breather.
“You just want to keep him fresh,” coach Doug Marrone said about Fournette’s workload.
Still, at the most critical point in the game the ball should go to the offense’s best player. At the very least he should be on the field. Even though Fournette already had 22 touches, he clearly is the team’s best option to make a play, and the Jaguars used him at the beginning of that drive.
First-and-10 from the Jets’ 35: Fournette 9-yard run.
Second-and-1 from the 26: Fournette 3-yard run.
First-and-10 from the 23: Screen pass to Fournette that goes for a touchdown but is nullified by a holding penalty on receiver Arrelious Benn. The ball is brought back to the 16.
Taking Fournette off the field then for a breather makes sense. But when Ivory gained 10 yards on the next snap and the Jaguars had first-and-goal from the 6 with less than two minutes remaining, Fournette should have been on the field.
It’s not a knock on Ivory, who averaged 4.7 yards on nine carries against the Jets. The Jaguars drafted Fournette to score touchdowns, and that was the most critical point in the season so far: A victory would have left the team alone in first place in the AFC South.
So give him the ball.
To Fournette’s credit, he was diplomatic when asked how much bigger a workload he can handle.
“I don’t really get into that,” Fournette said. “That’s the coach’s decision. I have to live with whatever decision he’s making. It’s not just my team; it’s all 11 of us. We come together as a group collectively and we have to make plays.”
Not only was Fournette on the sideline, but offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett called three consecutive passes. The explanation for that from quarterback Blake Bortles: The Jets had shown on film that they like to blitz in that situation and that would leave the receivers in man coverage and the Jaguars felt they could exploit that.
Except the Jets never blitzed and the Jaguars gained 2 yards before Jason Myers’ 22-yard field goal tied the game.
It’s understandable that the Jaguars are wary of putting too much wear and tear on Fournette. That position takes a tremendous beating and you want to ensure he’ll be around the entire season and have a long career. Fournette had six carries in OT, though, and the Jaguars could have saved him some of that pounding had he been on the field when they had a chance to win it in regulation.