It was an eventful debut for first-round running back Leonard Fournette, as the Jaguars scored a 31-24 victory over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the preseason opener Thursday night.
Fournette made the most of his carries in Foxborough, Massachusetts, as he produced 31 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries. The highlight of the rookie's night was an 8-yard gain on a fourth-and-inches run.
Backup quarterback Chad Henne completed 5-of-6 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. The score came on a 97-yard connection with undrafted wide receiver Keelan Cole, who was streaking down the field after beating coverage.
Henne connected on five passes to four different receivers. Along with Cole's big score, Henne moved the ball with throws to tight end Ben Koyack and wide receivers Rashad Greene and Shane Wynn.
It was a short night for most of the Jaguars' offensive starters, as quarterback Blake Bortles and wide receivers Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee played just one quarter against the Patriots. Bortles finished 3-of-5 for 16 passing yards
Bortles' incomplete passes were due to a drop and a throw away pass in the red zone. Bortles made good decisions with the ball, as he took what the defense gave him. However, the majority of Bortles' work was dominated by handoffs to the Jaguars' running backs.
In the first quarter, Fournette, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon combined for nine carries for 36 rushing yards and two catches for nine yards. The trio finished with 17 carries for 51 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Fellow running back Corey Grant broke out for a 79-yard touchdown run on the team's first possession of the second half. Grant finished with eight carries for 120 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Even after the Jaguars went to their third-team offense, the big plays continued. Quarterback Brandon Allen launched a 42-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook for a touchdown. Allen finished 5-of-7 for 85 yards and a touchdown.
While the offense moved the ball well throughout the game, kicker Jason Myers missed two of his three field goal attempts. Both missed attempts came from beyond 50 yards out. However, he did connect on a 27-yard attempt in the first quarter and was successful on all four of his extra point attempts.
The Jaguars' first team defense made the night uncomfortable early on for Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, as Tom Brady sat out of the preseason opener.
Second-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue produced a sack and a quarterback hit in limited action. Linebacker Telvin Smith also produced a sack on the Patriots' backup quarterback.
Garoppolo completed 22-of-28 passes for 235 passing yards and two touchdowns. His top weapons were wide receiver Austin Carr and tight end Cody Hollister, who combined for 12 receptions for 160 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Patriots running backs Brandon Bolden and Dion Lewis combined for 12 carries for 65 rushing yards in the first half.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Fournette looked the part in his debut. The rookie running back gained good chunks of yards running into contact. The hard-nosed style allowed the Jaguars to pick up ground in short-yardage situations. On a fourth-and-inches run, Fournette picked up eight yards to keep a drive alive. He also scored on a one-yard touchdown run to cap his night.
The rookie finished with nine carries for 31 rushing yards and a touchdown.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Jaguars produced four plays of over 40 yards Thursday night. A 41-yard punt return by Greene started the trend in the first quarter. The 97-yard touchdown connection between Henne and Cole continued the effort.
Grant's 79-yard run for a touchdown kept the streak alive in the second half. To conclude the big play onslaught, Allen connected with Westbrook for the 42-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
PLAY OF THE GAME
With 9:03 remaining in the second quarter, backup quarterback Chad Henne hit wide receiver Keelan Cole in stride on a go route for a 97-yard touchdown connection. The score and a successful point after attempt put the Jaguars in the lead, 10-3.
At least 10 Jaguars players missed the preseason opener due to pre-existing injuries.
Cornerbacks Aaron Colvin (ankle) and Jalen Ramsey (core) remain on the physically unable to perform list.
Cornerback A.J. Bouye, running back Tyler Gaffney, linebacker Justin Horton, guard Earl Watford, offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, tight end Mychal Rivera, wide receiver Allen Hurns and defensive end Calais Campbell also missed the game due to undisclosed injuries.
Safety Peyton Thompson left the game with a right bicep strain but later returned. Rookie linebacker P.J. Davis also left the field and did not return because of a shoulder injury.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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