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Jaguars positional breakdown: Comparing the current running back group to last year

In a series of articles, we’ll compare the Jaguars current position groups to how they looked at this point in the offseason last year. Up next: Running backs.

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

While the quarterback position didn’t make any changes personnel-wise, the Jaguars running back corps definitely got a face-lift during the 2017 offseason.

The Jaguars used the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft on former Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette. The 6-0, 228 lb man-beast immediately gives the Jaguars a “bell-cow” back to rely on, rather than a “running back by committee” like they attempted last year with Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, and Corey Grant.

In his three year, 22 game career at LSU, Fournette ran for 3830 yards on 616 rushes, averaging 6.2 yards per carry, and scored 40 touchdowns.

In transitioning from a zone-concept blocking scheme to a more power, “smash-mouth” rushing attack, the bruising Fournette automatically becomes a center-piece in the Jaguars offense. Head coach Doug Marrone said it himself:

[What’s the ideal number of attempts you’d want to see from Bortles every game?]

“Zero. I’m not joking. I’d love to run the ball as much as possible.”

Fournette wasn’t the only addition to the running back group this offseason either. The Jaguars signed I’Tavius Mathers out of Middle Tennessee State as an undrafted free agent, and he will compete for a roster spot likely with T.J. Yeldon and/or Corey Grant.

With the coaching staff being shaken up after the firing of Gus Bradley and the hiring of Doug Marrone, the Jaguars hired Tyrone Wheatley to coach the position.

Wheatley is the Michigan Wolverines fifth all-time leader in rushing yards with 4178, and their third all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 47. He was drafted in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, and played there through 1998. He signed with the Oakland in 1999 and finished his career there in 2004. He finished his NFL career with 4,962 yards and 40 touchdowns.

Wheatley has coached running backs at the high school, college, and NFL level since 2007, including at Syracuse and with the Buffalo Bills under Marrone for a total of five years. He provides the Jaguars running back group with loads of both playing and coaching experience, which is great for Fournette and Co. going forward.

If you haven’t been able to tell so far this offseason, the run game is back in Jacksonville, and the position certainly looks brighter than it did at this point last year. Even though the Jaguars had high expectations for Ivory and Yeldon in 2016, they now have their “franchise running back” in house, and likely for the long run.


How does the Jaguars running back position compare to this point in the 2016 offseason?

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