For now, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the other 31 NFL clubs are restricted to a virtual world and have yet to take any fields together for offseason team activities. Competitions for starting roles have yet to be had but rest assured, they will still eventually be battled.
But with the season still scheduled as of today to begin on time, it can still be a worthwhile exercise to project how certain position groups may shape up come the regular season. For the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are set to trot out one of the league's youngest rosters in 2020, there are a number of positions that still needed to be sorted out from top to bottom, whether it be at the starting role or along the depth.
As this offseason progresses, we will take a look at each position and give our best guess as to what the depth chart will look like come September, or whenever the season does start.
We already covered the quarterbacks, and now we will move onto the running back position, which figures to be one of the keys to Jacksonville's offense this fall.
Despite rumors of the Jaguars pushing for a Leonard Fournette trade shortly before the draft the Jaguars never struck a deal for the former No. 4 overall pick. With Fournette returning, the only notable addition to the Jaguars' running back room is former Washington running back Chris Thompson.
Jacksonville scored a league-low three rushing touchdowns in 2019 despite an otherwise career-year from Fournette. Now, the team will hope the addition of offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will be what can flip the switch for Jacksonville's rushing offense.
RB No. 1: Leonard Fournette
Last season was a big year for Fournette, even if the Jaguars had some interest in trading him for future draft picks. He rebounded from a turbulent 2018 season and had arguably the best year of his career in 2019, and also improved as a teammate and leader in the locker room. After a sophomore season that saw Fournette have massive issues on and off the field, he ended up posting career-highs in rushing yards (1152), yards per carry average (4.3), receptions (76), and receiving yards (522 yards).
Fournette wasn't exactly an efficient or dangerous receiver but he did display the ability to be a safety outlet out of the backfield. He also developed his pass blocking, becoming one of the better running backs in the league at picking up blitzes.
As a runner, Fournette did a fantastic job in the first half of the season of breaking off long runs. His balance, ability to create yards after contact, and second-level effectiveness all improved by a good amount, even if he did struggle to finish long runs due to his lack of long speed.
Fournette was a solid performer in 2019, though it is fair to point out that he was an inefficient creator of yards compared to most top backs and his lack of touchdowns negates the impact of his total yardage. Regardless, Fournette is the best running back on the Jaguars' roster, and his place as the workhorse should be solidified for 2020. Beyond then? It is anyone's guess.
RB No. 2: Ryquell Armstead
Armstead had a few encouraging games as a runner but was ultimately never in the games enough to get a true rhythm as a ball-carrier, sapping his effectiveness in the ground game. Overall, he had 35 carries for 108 yards as a rookie, a middling 3.1 yards per carry.
Despite an overall ineffectiveness as a ball carrier sans a Week 4 game vs. Denver, Armstead was extremely effective as a pass-catcher, catching more one fewer touchdown than Fournette scored all season. He has good hands, runs good routes, works himself open on extended plays, and is solid at picking up yards after the catch.
"I think maybe it's misunderstood of how we feel about the other guys we have in our room besides Leonard and Roc(quell Armstead) and Devine (Ozigbo)," general manager Dave Caldwell said following the draft. "And those are two guys that as you look down, you start to get into the fourth, fifth round, and you're like, ‘Do we like these guys better than Rock and Devine?’ And the answer is really no."
Armstead was encouraging as a rookie and the context of his first season needs to be considered. He never got the opportunities most successful running backs get, and it is a strong likelihood his production would have improved with more consistent usage.
RB No. 3: Chris Thompson
While Thompson will be behind Fournette and Armstead on the depth chart, he should still get a fair amount of snaps thanks to his ability as a third down back. He is a terrific receiver out of the backfield and has plenty of experience with Gruden, which should help him get on the field early on as the rest of the roster transitions to the new scheme.
Thompson, who was an unrestricted free agent after spending his first seven seasons with Washington, has appeared in 66 career games and has totaled 250 rushes for 1,194 yards and five rushing TDs and 212 receptions for 1,772 yards and 10 receiving TDs. He isn't the pure running back Fournette and Armstead are, but he is the most reliable and explosive pass-catcher on the roster.
“Yes, I can rely on Chris for sure. Chris is like another coach. He will correct me sometimes honestly. He’s awesome. He’s smart, very detailed in what he does and he’s the guy that really came from a practice squad and built himself into one of the best third-down [running] backs in the league," Gruden said about Thompson on Tuesday.
"You know, without some injuries, his numbers would be up there with some of the best ones. He is a great player and a great guy. I am happy to have him on the team."
RB No. 4: Devine Ozigbo
Devine Ozigbo only played 149 snaps as a rookie following the Jaguars claiming him off of waivers from the New Orleans Saints last year, and only 29 of those snaps came on offense, with the vast majority coming in Week 17 when Fournette didn't play.
Last year, Ozigbo rushed nine times for 27 yards and caught three passes for 23 yards. He didn't get enough reps to prove his complete mettle as a runner or pass-catcher, but he did display plenty of explosiveness and athleticism.
Ozigbo is more talented than a typical No. 4 running back, but it is clear Jacksonville is high on Armstead and Fournette won't be unseated as the top dog. Add in Thompson's ability in the passing game, and it could be hard for Ozigbo to find snaps once again.