Throughout the month of July, the Last Word on Pro Football department will be taking a look at the three most recognizable faces of each NFL team. For this series, we’ll be looking only at active players.
The 2019 Jacksonville Jaguars are just weeks away from the start of training camp. Now is a good time to take a look at which players are the faces of the franchise. This distinction takes into account players whose success on the field will have a large impact, as well as players who stand out because of personality or other factors.
2019 Jacksonville Jaguars: The Faces of the Franchise
Nick Foles became a member of the Jaguars just this spring through free agency. But by virtue of his position and what he was brought to Jacksonville to accomplish, he is one of the faces of the franchise. Foles signed a four-year, $88 million contract with over $50 million guaranteed to join the team. He’s a Super Bowl MVP and the team is hoping he can help bring the Lombardi Trophy to Jacksonville.
Foles has been somewhat of a journeyman to this point in his career. He’s spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams (St. Louis Rams at the time), and the Kansas City Chiefs. Of course, the majority of his time and success has been with the Eagles. After being drafted in the third round in 2012, he fought to become a starter in Philly. In his second stint with the Eagles, he was clutch as he filled in for Carson Wentz and took his team to the Super Bowl, defeating the New England Patriots in a shootout against Tom Brady.
Now in Jacksonville, Foles has his old quarterbacks coach back with him as his offensive coordinator. John DeFilippo and Foles have a good relationship and that puts them ahead of the game heading into the 2019 Jacksonville Jaguars season. But Foles definitely has his hands full. The Jags offense was anemic last season. A new quarterback can change a lot, but his leadership will be important. Foles has yet to play a full 16 game season in the league, but this year will be his chance to do that and elevate Jacksonville to playoff contention once again.
Jalen Ramsey is undoubtedly the biggest personality on the Jaguars. But he backs up the smack talk with dominant play. Ramsey has made the Pro Bowl for two consecutive years. He plays with swagger and can constantly be seen with his mouth guard hanging due to trash-talking opponents.
Ramsey has played and started in every game in his three years since joining the Jaguars. You can count on him be on the field, even if he’s in pain. Last year in a home game against the Indianapolis Colts, Ramsey was a game-time decision to play due to a knee injury. But he suited up and played well. The pain was visible on his face at times, but he still recorded six tackles and had two pass breakups.
There will always be a debate as to who is the best at a given position. That holds true for the cornerback position. But Ramsey is well within the conversation and is one of the best defensive backs in the game heading into his fourth year in the NFL. He provides attitude to the Jaguars defense that spills over to the rest of the team. As long as he’s in Jacksonville, he provides the defense with the right identity to square up against any offense.
Leonard Fournette is a polarizing figure in Jacksonville as of late. You have fans that defend him no matter what, even ignoring the obvious maturity issues. You also have fans that want to see him cut or traded. But the young and embattled back belongs on this list. Fournette has talent for sure, and it might not be fully realized yet, but his success in 2019 will play a huge role in the outcome of the season and the Jaguars future.
Fournette’s promising 2017 rookie season seems like a distant dream at this point. That year he rushed for 1,040 yards with nine touchdowns with a 3.9 yard per carry average. He only played in eight games in 2018 and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Injuries and a one-game suspension kept him from being the workhorse back he has the potential to be.
Despite Fournette’s forgettable 2018 season, he is one of the faces of the franchise. In fact, you could argue that’s been the case since draft day in 2017. Tom Coughlin and Dave Caldwell decided to pick a running back with the fourth overall pick. Doug Marrone decided to double down, even going so far as to say “I like to run the ball every play” according to ESPN staff writer Michael DiRocco. The run game is a huge part of coach Marrone’s offensive philosophy and the Jags need Fournette to do well in that regard. Fournette is not only a face of the franchise, but he will also force the team to reexamine their offensive scheme if he fails to live up to expectations.