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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Jags' Fournette focuses on 'clean start' after dismal season

Fri May 24 3:46pm ET
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer

Players: Nick Foles, Alfred Blue, Carlos Hyde, Corey Grant, T.J. Yeldon, Leonard Fournette

Jacksonville Jaguars running backs coach Terry Robiskie, center, talks with running backs Ryquell Armstead (30) and Leonard Fournette (27) during an NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) carries the ball during an NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Leonard Fournette slipped off his sweaty cleats, signed each one and then handed them to a young fan after practice.

The youngster carefully walked away with Fournette's gold-colored shoes, making sure not to touch the drying ink. After all, the memorabilia could appreciate in value if the Jacksonville Jaguars running back gets his NFL career turned around.

Fournette spoke publicly for the first time in nearly six months Friday, finally addressing the worst season in his 24 years and everything that's happened since. He was injured, suspended and on the bench in crunch time. He was fined, criticized and admittedly not in ideal shape late in the year.

The Jaguars voided the remaining guarantees in his rookie contract following his one-game suspension for fighting, and personnel chief Tom Coughlin ripped him for being ''disrespectful'' and ''selfish'' during the season finale. Adding to the chaos, Fournette was arrested last month for driving with a suspended license.

''It's a new year,'' Fournette said following practice. ''We have a new team. We're focused and we have new players. It's a new year for us, so it's a new everything. It's a clean start for a lot of us guys. We're not focused on the past. The past's the past.

''Some things I did, whether it was offseason and I admitted to, yeah I was wrong. We moved on. We're in a good place right now.''

The Jaguars were in a tough spot without Fournette last season, unable to run the ball with any consistency after building the offense around the former LSU star and fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

He finished with 439 yards rushing and five touchdowns in eight games after running for 1,040 yards and nine scores as a rookie. He's missed 11 games in two seasons, including two because of suspensions.

''Everybody has a bad year, so I don't feel like I've got to prove myself to no one,'' Fournette said.

The team probably feels otherwise.

Jacksonville completely revamped its running backs room around Fournette, firing position coach Tyrone Wheatley and parting ways with backups T.J. Yeldon, Carlos Hyde and Corey Grant.

Coach Doug Marrone hired 64-year-old Terry Robiskie, who, like Fournette, was born and raised in New Orleans and attended LSU, as running backs coach. They also added veteran Alfred Blue (another LSU alum) to be Fournette's backup.

And even though they signed quarterback and former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to upgrade one of the NFL's most anemic offenses, Fournette is still expected to be the centerpiece under new coordinator John DeFilippo.

''He's going to be a major reason for where our offense goes,'' DeFilippo said. ''I'm not going to sugarcoat that. Leonard Fournette needs to be a big part of this offense. The harder he works, which he is right now, I think that's not only going to be good for our offense, but good for our team.''

Fournette said he weighs 226 pounds, down 14 pounds from the end of last season.

He spent part of this offseason training in Dallas and then went to Wyoming to work with his college strength and conditioning coach in hopes of getting back to his ''foundation.''

''I kind of put a lot on myself this offseason, like getting my body right,'' Fournette said. ''Just mentally coming back ready to play football. No distractions. Leaving the outside stuff where it's at. I think that's one of the biggest things that us players. ... We face a lot of problems, you know what I mean?

''We have a lot of issues, and if we're not right with ourselves and then we come out on this field, we're not going to be right in the game.''

Getting Fournette back on track is one of Jacksonville's top priorities. Coaches believe he's got the talent to be one of the best backs in the league - a guy whose worn cleats would be a collector's item - but they have to keep him healthy, in shape, motivated and focused.

''Those young guys at that age, I always think they need a little more push, a little bit more guidance, a little bit more leadership,'' Robiskie said. ''Leonard is one of those guys. He's got the ambition. He's got the heart.

''I think he wants to win. I don't think he wants to win a game. I think he wants to be a part of something special. I think he wants to win a Super Bowl, and I think the year before last, that little taste that he had, I think that kind of helped push it a little bit more.''

Player Notes
David Njoku Jul 3 11:20pm ET

Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku demanded a trade on Friday, per his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Soon after, reports surfaced that the Dallas Cowboys were a "potential suitor" for Njoku. "That," one source said Friday as the news broke, "sounds like an agent creation." The Cowboys made a commitment to Blake Jarwin and also signed blocking tight end Blake Bell. They also have Dalton Schultz on the roster, which means Njoku wouldn't necessarily represent an upgrade. The Browns could be asking for a first-rounder in return. All of the Njoku rumors to Dallas were new to the Cowboys. Njoku is blocked by Austin Hooper in Cleveland and is looking for a team that can give him the targets he desires. That probably wouldn't happen in Dallas, but Njoku could become a TE2 with upside if he's traded and lands in the right situation.

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David Njoku Jul 3 2:40pm ET

According to a tweet by ESPN's Adam Schefter, Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku has demanded that the team trade him before training camp. The Browns responded by telling Njoku that they would like to keep him but Njoku is "intent" on being moved to another team. Njoku's request is most likely as a result of Cleveland signing tight end Austin Hooper to a large contract his offseason to be their starter. Drew Rosenhaus, Njoku's agent, stated that "it is in David's best interest to find a new team at this time." If Njoku is moved, his fantasy value would be mostly dependent on his new team. That would also represent a playing time bump for rookie Harrison Bryant. Bryant was the Browns' fourth-round draft pick in April's draft.

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Cameron Jordan Jul 3 1:10pm ET

New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (foot) was sent to Injured Reserve last year with a Lisfranc injury a year after a turf toe injury limited him to 13 games. Between Davenport and Cameron Jordan, the Saints starting defensive ends had 19.5 sacks in the first 12 games. The Saints are being patient with their 2018 first-rounder heading into his third season. Davenport has been "busting his butt" this offseason in his rehab and is "putting the work in to come back in the best shape that he's ever been in," according to defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen. The young pass-rusher had six sacks last year and career highs in tackles (31), forced fumbles (three) and quarterback hits (16). While Davenport is a rising young defender, he's not quite in play as a starter in IDP leagues, and he must stay healthy moving forward. But the combination of him and Jordan on the Saints defensive line could be nasty in 2020.

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Keke Coutee Jul 3 1:00pm ET

Houston Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee hopes to have a bigger role in 2020 despite the additions of Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb after the team traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals. "Very hungry, very hungry," Coutee said. "Not a lot of talking, just ready to work. Results speak for themselves in 2020." Coutee had 11 catches for 109 yards in his rookie season in 2018, but injuries have held him to just 15 games in two seasons. He had 22 receptions for 254 yards and no touchdowns in nine games in 2019. Will Fuller V, Cooks and Cobb figure to be the starters, but Fuller and Cooks have injury concerns and Cobb turns 30 in August. But with Kenny Stills also in the fold, Coutee might be the odd man out in 2020.

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Mark Ingram Jul 3 11:20am ET

Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram II finished the 2019 campaign with 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns and was also one of the league's most prolific threats inside the red zone. However, with Lamar Jackson back in the mix and likely to resume his dominance on the rushing end this season in addition to the team's selection of J.K. Dobbins in this year's NFL Draft, the 30-year-old could see some notable regression. While Ingram still has a chance to produce some adequate numbers on occasion in 2020, fantasy managers run the risk that he will fall short of surpassing his ADP expectations.

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Jonathan Taylor Jul 3 10:50am ET

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is expected to finish the year with the most rushing yards among rookies, according to Pro Football Focus. Topping the list with 858 yards and ahead of both Cam Akers (829) and D'Andre Swift (727), the site predicts that the former Badger will end the 2020 campaign with 858 yards. With Taylor having the protection of one of the most efficient offensive lines in the league, he has a shot to be one of the best fantasy backs overall despite the potential timeshare with Marlon Mack. He is a definite first of second overall dynasty pick and a third or fourth-round selection in redraft formats heading into the regular season.

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D'Andre Swift Jul 3 10:40am ET

Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift is projected to finish third overall in rushing yards among rookies this season, according to Pro Football Focus. The site anticipates the former Bulldog to end the 2020 campaign with just over 727 yards on the ground, with Cam Akers (829) and Jonathan Taylor (858) outranking him on the list. Swift has a solid chance to end up as the team's workhorse throughout the year but will potentially concede carries to Kerryon Johnson, at least initially, while also being forced to play behind one of the league's worst offensive lines. He is surely worth a top draft pick in dynasty formats and is an adequate mid-round choice in redraft formats heading into the season.

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Cam Akers Jul 3 10:20am ET

Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers is projected to run for 829 yards this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That total ranks him second among rookies, finishing only behind Jonathan Taylor, who is predicted to surpass Akers by 29 yards to finish the 2020 campaign. The 52nd overall pick in this year's draft will battle Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr. for a bigger piece of the potential backfield timeshare, with Akers expected to receive the most significant portion, especially toward the end of the regular season. While his anticipated yards total isn't encouraging, he is worth a first-round draft pick in dynasty leagues and a mid-round dart throw in redraft formats.

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Carson Wentz Jul 3 1:40am ET

Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said he does not expect the Eagles offensive line to "miss a beat" in the 2020 season. The Eagles were expecting to bring back four of their five starting linemen from last season, but right guard Brandon Brooks suffered a torn Achilles a few weeks ago and will miss the full season. Johnson said, "Obviously you can't replace a Brandon Brooks, who's the best guard in the league, so losing him was definitely a big blow for us but ultimately we still need him in the room as far as directing the young guys, pushing these guys forward." The Eagles offensive line has keeping Carson Wentz healthy as their most critical job in 2020. To keep their Super Bowl aspirations alive, the Eagles will need to keep Carson Wentz on his feet. Pro Football Focus ranked the Eagles offensive line as the best in the league in 2019, and they should be somewhere among the top ranks again despite the loss of Brooks.

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Kwon Alexander Jul 3 12:40am ET

San Francisco 49ers defensive back D.J. Reed (pectoral) suffered a torn pectoral muscle during a recent offseason workout, according to a league source. It's unknown how much time Reed will miss with his injury, but he's likely to be questionable to start the season on time unless it's delayed due to COVID-19. Linebacker Kwon Alexander suffered the same injury on Oct. 31 last year and returned to practice two months later. Reed is a valuable backup for the Niners because of his versatility to play corner, nickel back and safety. He can also contribute on special teams as a returner, but he has no significance to fantasy owners in IDP leagues. Reed was a fifth-round pick by San Fran in 2018 out of Kansas State. He appeared in all 16 games last year and had 13 tackles and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery.

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Thomas Davis Jul 3 12:30am ET

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Russell Wilson Jul 3 12:30am ET

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Tavon Young Jul 2 12:00pm ET

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Cam Newton Jul 2 11:50am ET

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is back in the NFL after signing a deal that guarantees him $500,000 in 2020. It include a $1.05 million base salary with $700,000 in per-game roster bonuses that could cap at $7.5 million. There is $5.75 million worth of incentives in this contract. This deal is truly a low-risk 'prove it' deal for Newton who has been injured each of the last two seasons. Head coach Bill Belichick has not named Newton the starter, but he is expected to beat out Jarrett Stidham for the starting role. Newton's fantasy value will solely depend on his health. The Pats offense is not stacked, but Newton could have decent fantasy value, assuming he's back to the player he was a few years ago.

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Teddy Bridgewater Jul 2 11:40am ET

Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson told NFL Network's Colleen Wolfe on Wednesday's NFL Total Access that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater "is back" to the talent that made him a Pro Bowler when he was with the Vikings. "I think Teddy's definitely going to come in and change the offense. He has great weapons," Thompson said. Bridgewater went 5-0 in relief of an injured Drew Brees for the Saints last year and has plenty of weapons at his disposal in his first year in Carolina. While the 27-year-old signal-caller isn't known as a QB that pushes the ball down the field consistently, he could surprise in 2020 under new head coach Matt Rhule. Bridgewater will be a QB2 target with upside for fantasy owners.

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Trent Taylor Jul 2 11:30am ET

The Athletic's Matt Barrows believes that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor is the favorite to finish third in receptions in 2020 behind tight end George Kittle and receiver Deebo Samuel. Taylor missed the entire 2019 campaign with a Jones fracture in his foot, which is the same injury that Samuel is recovering from right now. The 26-year-old has 69 receptions for 645 yards and three touchdowns in 29 games over his two seasons in San Francisco, but he'll have the opportunity to carve out a starting role this year, especially if Samuel isn't ready for Week 1. The 49ers apparently expect Taylor to be a big part of the offense, too, but fantasy owners will want to see it before they believe it. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis and Richie James will also be fighting for playing time.

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Deebo Samuel Jul 2 11:20am ET

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Demaryius Thomas Jul 2 10:04am ET

The New York Jets are still talking to free-agent wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. The 32-year-old former Denver Bronco doesn't have much left in the tank at this point in his career, catching only 36 passes (58 targets) for 433 yards and one touchdown in his 11 games for the Jets last year. It's a far cry from when he compiled five straight 1,000-yard campaigns from 2012 to 2016 with the Broncos. New York's receiving corps isn't all that strong with Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims as the top three wideouts, but DT would likely battle for the fourth-receiver gig with the likes of Josh Doctson and Vyncint Smith. Thomas won't be relevant in New York unless injuries open up a more prominent role for him.

Antonio Brown Jul 2 10:04am ET

Free-agent wide receiver Antonio Brown posted a picture on his Instagram account on Wednesday showing him working out with Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Russell Wilson. Brown is trying to work his way back into the league after countless off-field incidents. While he's likely to receive at least an eight-game suspension in 2020, it's looking more and more likely that another team will give him another shot based purely on his talent on a football field. The Seahawks were already one of the teams considering adding Brown or Josh Gordon, and Wilson working out with AB only furthers that narrative. Adding Brown to Seattle's mix would certainly be intriguing, but the controversial wideout won't have much redraft value with a lengthy suspension coming his way if he's reinstated.

Dalvin Cook Jul 2 8:10am ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook recently made NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund's list of 10 players who deserve a new deal. The 24-year-old is currently searching for a new contract and stated that he plans to hold out if he doesn't get paid heading into the 2020 campaign. Cook ran for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns on 250 attempts in 2019. He also added 53 catches for 519 yards and was one of the most prolific runners inside the red zone. While there are a few months to go before the start of the regular season, fantasy managers should be prepared in the event Cook doesn't report to training camp at the end of July, while also targeting Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone as adequate handcuff options.

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