Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm.

Fournette one of several missed draft picks by Jaguars

When owner Shad Khan tabbed Tom Coughlin to return to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017 to run the football operation, Coughlin bet his future on running back Leonard Fournette.

So far, Coughlin isn’t winning that bet.

He decided to take Fournette with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft and build a power running back offense around him.

He decided to keep Blake Bortles as his quarterback and bypassed both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to take Fournette.

But Fournette has not turned into Saquon Barkley, who has had an impressive rookie reason for the Giants.

Instead, he’s been hurt at times in both of his first two seasons, suspended a game each year and had just one carry in the second half of the 16-13 loss to Washington Sunday.

Meanwhile, head coach Doug Marrone said he wanted to take a look at rookie running back Dave Williams, a seventh-round Denver pick who was signed off the Denver practice squad in October.

Fournette did appear to suffer a foot injury when he seemed to limp off after his one second-half carry and he was on the injury report Wednesday although he practiced in full.

But Marrone didn’t use the foot injury as an explanation for going with Williams over Fournette. He said he asked Fournette when he limped off the field if he was OK and Marrone said Fournette told him he was fine.

“I wanted to get Dave some carries,” he said. “I knew that going into the game. That was one of the things I wanted to see because of the things I had mentioned Sunday in how hard he had worked. He went in there and had five carries and I think he averaged 6.4 yards per carry. He had the one eight-yard run called back. We were trying to change it up.”

His spin was that they were trying to replace the carries of Carlos Hyde, who was inactive, and not trying to diminish Fournette’s role.

“I wanted to get Dave carries going into the game,” he said. “I didn’t want to end the game and have this guy and we didn’t do it because I think he can help us and give us a spark.”

He said Williams is a different type of runner.

“With Leonard, we were getting safety blitzed,” he said. “They were coming all over really focused on it. It didn’t seem like it was working. We went to a little bit different scheme with Dave and got a little more out of it.”

It doesn’t help that Fournette missed six games with a hamstring injury this year, has played behind a patchwork offensive line and often runs against stacked boxes because the passing game is inept.

Still, the running game isn’t much different with him or without him.

As veteran Florida Times-Union columnist Gene Frenette pointed out, the Jaguars are 10-10 the last two years when he has played and 5-5 when he hasn’t.

With him they averaged 133.9 yards rushing per game and 105.1 yards without him so they are slightly better in the running game with him, but he hasn’t made the impact expected of the fourth player picked in the draft.

As the Jaguars head to Miami Sunday with a 4-10 record, it is looking like a lost season for Fournette. He has just 350 yards on 194 carries and four touchdowns.

How big a role he will play in Miami remains to be seen.

And there are now questions whether Fournette will ever be the player they thought he would be.

Since Dave Caldwell became the general manager in 2013, he has missed on three of his four first-round picks. Luke Joeckel and Dante Fowler Jr. have departed and Blake Bortles has been benched.

Jalen Ramsey, who has developed into a Pro Bowl player after being drafted in 2016, is the only first rounder he hit on.

Caldwell retained his general manager’s title when Coughlin came on board, but Fournette could make it four of five misses if he doesn’t turn his career around.

What his future is with the team is one of the many questions they will ponder during the offseason.

SERIES HISTORY: 8th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 4-3. Miami lost the only playoff game between the two teams in 1999 when the Jaguars routed Miami 62-7 in the last game for both head coach Jimmy Johnson and quarterback Dan Marino. In the last game between the two clubs, the Jaguars won 23-20 in 2015 after losing the three previous meetings.