Jaguars 90-man roster breakdown: Running backs

Jaguars beat writer Mike Kaye breaks down the running back position entering training camp

As we countdown the days until training camp, First Coast News is taking a look at each position group on the Jaguars' roster. Our positional series continues with a focus on the running back position.

DOWNLOAD THE FIRST COAST FOOTBALL APP FOR MORE JAGUARS COVERAGE

Previous Breakdowns

- Quarterbacks

Projected Depth Chart

Leonard Fournette

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 235 lbs.

Experience: Rookie

Career Numbers: N/A (3,830 rushing yards, 40 rushing touchdowns, 482 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown at LSU)

Acquisition: Selected with the fourth overall pick in this year's NFL Draft

 

Chris Ivory

Ht/Wt: 6-0, 224 lbs.

Experience: 8th season

Career Numbers: 4,470 rushing yards (4.5 yards per carry), 27 rushing touchdowns, 568 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns

Acquisition: Signed as a veteran free agent in 2016

 

T.J. Yeldon

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 223 lbs.

Experience: 3rd Season

Career Numbers: 1,205 rushing yards (3.9 yards per carry), three rushing touchdowns, 591 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns

Acquisition: Selected with a second-round pick in 2015

 

Corey Grant

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 204 lbs.

Experience: 3rd Season

Career Numbers: 166 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, 48 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown

Acquisition: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015

 

I'Tavius Mathers

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 197 lbs.

Experience: Rookie

Career Numbers: N/A (1,561 rushing yards, 17 rushing touchdowns, 633 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns as a senior at Middle Tennessee State)

Acquisition: Signed as an undrafted free agent this offseason

 

Tim Cook

Ht/Wt: 6-0, 242 lbs.

Experience: Rookie

Career Numbers: N/A (137 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, 28 receiving yards and one touchdown as a senior at Oregon State)

Acquisition: Signed as an undrafted free agent this offseason

 

 

Storylines for 2017 training camp

- Will Fournette be comfortable enough to handle the bulk of the carries?

- Will Yeldon's third-down prowess allow him to stick in Jacksonville and find a notable role?

- With a fullback now in the lineup, are the excuses for poor yardage pickup null and void?

Competition entering training camp

Yeldon vs. Grant for the third spot

Grant and Yeldon offer different individual upside. They aren't comparable talents.

Yeldon is probably the best receiving back on the roster by a large margin. He was drafted to be "the guy" but has since been either marginalized or replaced during the last two offseasons.

The Jaguars brought in Ivory last season to take the load off Yeldon. The team then drafted Fournette with its top pick this offseason, essentially ending all hope of Yeldon becoming the starter.

The team has openly praised his receiving and blocking ability. On paper, he is an ideal third-down back. Yeldon ranked third on the team in receptions last season and found a nice niche in the short-yardage receiving game.

However, most third-down backs - and in his case, third-string backs - are asked to play special teams. Yeldon has yet to play a snap of the game's third phase in the NFL.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and football boss Tom Coughlin have been adamant that every player should be willing and able to play special teams under the re-worked regime.

Yeldon's main competition will be Grant, who has proven to be a reliable player on special teams. He is probably the fastest player on offense and finally got to show off his skills as a running back last season. 

Grant started in Week 17 against the Indianapolis Colts. He had a few impressive runs, including a 57-yard streak to the end zone for a touchdown.

Grant is a guy who would fit in well as a change-of-pace back, as he is a lot more agile than his counterparts at the position. 

The competition will probably end with Yeldon holding onto the reigns, at least in the short-term. Both could realistically make the roster.

Although the touches will probably be limited for the winner of the third job, being a special teams asset and a quality receiver out of the backfield could assist that running back in receiving more playing time.

Positional Overview

An upgrade at running back was sorely needed after Ivory and Yeldon both struggled last year. 

Fournette has a strong mix of nastiness and fluidity to his game. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry in three seasons at LSU, where he ran over and around his opponents. 

Fournette was a workhorse in college, producing over 4,000 total yards and 41 touchdowns.

The Jaguars are hoping Fournette can improve a running game that frequently stalled drives last season. 

Ivory is now 29 and Fournette's arrival may expand his career. Ivory can master the short-yardage and redzone work, while the rookie gets adjusted to the NFL early on.

Last season was Ivory's least productive campaign since an injury-marred 2012. Ivory averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, the lowest mark of his career.

Now Ivory will help guide Fournette, as he looks to take on the starting mantle this season.

Yeldon and/or Grant can be used in obvious passing situations. While Fournette wasn't much of a receiver in college, he could eventually earn those snaps as well.

Cook and Mathers seem destined to battle for a spot on the 10-man practice squad. The running back unit is stacked with big investments, so it'll be hard for them to squeeze onto the main roster without injuries.

Coaching Outlook

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on Fournette's potential in the Jaguars' offense:

“Anytime you have a guy like that, you’re always going to have the opportunity to hand the ball off to somebody and he’s had a very good college career and I’m excited to see what he can do and how he can translate that into the NFL.”

Friday's focus will be on the Jaguars' fullback position.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment