JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said the clear-the-air meeting he had last week with running back Leonard Fournette was productive and he feels good about the first-round pick's mindset heading into the 2019 offseason.
"We had a good meeting," Marrone said Wednesday. "I'm not going to speak for Leonard, but when he left that meeting I think he's in a really good place.
"So, that's encouraging, and I'm excited about that."
Marrone would not go into specifics about what was discussed in the meeting other than to say they discussed "where we're going; where we want to go; what we want to do. Set out a plan, and I feel good about it."
It'll be several months before the Jaguars see if Fournette will be able to back up Marrone's optimism. There's certainly a lot for him to prove because there are legitimate questions about Fournette's maturity, commitment to football, conditioning, on-field behavior and production after the 2018 season.
So much so that there was some speculation late in the season that the team would be willing to trade -- or cut -- him in the offseason.
The Jaguars selected Fournette fourth overall in 2017, and he had a solid rookie season, rushing for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns to help the Jaguars win the AFC South and reach the AFC Championship Game. The 2018 season was a huge disappointment, though.
Fournette missed seven games because of injuries, was suspended for another, had several off-field issues, and let himself get out of shape. The season ended on a sour note when executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin publicly criticized Fournette (who was inactive because of a foot injury) and T.J. Yeldon for sitting alone on the bench and acting disinterested during the season finale.
Coughlin said they were "disrespectful, selfish and their behavior was unbecoming that of a professional football player."
That capped an awful year for Fournette. One season after missing two games with injuries, Fournette missed six full games and half of two others with a right hamstring injury in the first eight weeks of the season, and there was mounting frustration inside the organization about the length of his absence. The Jaguars built the offense around a power-run game, and the offense had a hard time functioning consistently without him on the field.
All that time away apparently impacted his conditioning. He ended the season heavier than when he reported for training camp, when he said he was down to 223 pounds (his lowest weight since his sophomore season at LSU). It's unusual for an NFL player to gain weight during the season, and Fournette was unable to do much, if any, conditioning during the time he was rehabbing his hamstring.
However, Fournette was not limited by injuries in November and the first half of December and did not improve his conditioning. He did acknowledge in December that he could be in better shape.
Fournette was suspended without pay for leaving the bench and fighting with Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars' 24-21 loss at Buffalo on Nov. 25. Fournette said he ran across the field because he saw Lawson shove Carlos Hyde and wanted to defend his teammate. It's the second time he has missed a game because of disciplinary reasons. The team made him inactive as a rookie as punishment for leaving Jacksonville early and missing a team photo during the bye week.
Fournette also was caught on video yelling at a fan in the stands during the team's embarrassing loss to Tennessee on Dec. 6. The video clip released by TMZ shows Fournette yelling that he was going to "beat your ass" at an unknown fan before two people walk up and escort Fournette away. Fournette said several days later that a fan used a racial slur, a claim that Yeldon corroborated.
Fournette lost playing time late in the season because of his lack of production. He didn't have a carry in the third quarter against Washington in Week 15, and he had one carry in the fourth quarter before leaving the game with an injured foot. Rookie David Williams, who was playing in just his fourth game, took over.
Fournette also wasn't on the field when the Jaguars were trying to run out the clock against Miami late in the fourth quarter of Week 16. Those carries went to Hyde, who had five carries for 37 yards on the Jaguars' final possession. Fournette, who ran for 7 yards on the first play of the drive before leaving the game, finished with 43 yards on 18 carries (2.4 yards per carry).
Fournette finished his second season with 439 yards and five touchdowns rushing and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in the eight games in which he played. He ran for more than 53 yards just twice and never surpassed 95 yards rushing in any game. It is the first time Fournette has failed to record at least one 100-yard game in a season dating back to before his time at St. Augustine (Louisiana) High School.