According to a source close to the situation who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak with the media, Fournette was given up for dead on Saturday. The team was already deep at the point when he was shut down and were already short four running backs in Darren McFadden, Joique Bell, and Lance Dunbar as well as wide receiver Robert Woods. The team will apparently let rookie Kenyan Drake or Marcus Lucas handle RB duties until Fournette returns. Fournette is being kept as a “bench player” rather than a “relief” back due to the lack of playing-time and workload he’s been taking during training camp. This move, based on what’s been revealed so far, makes plenty of sense if this is the plan. The Jaguars have already gone out and gotten RB Christian McCaffery, RB Corey Grant, RB T.J. Yeldon, RB Denard Robinson, and FB T.J. Yeldon on the practice squad. Even so having Fournette on the roster makes almost zero sense, and when you can’t get him on the roster, it makes more sense to put your backup running back on IR rather than putting someone like Drake or Lucas on the roster to be backup running back. If Fournette isn’t hurt, there’s no real hope of him making the team if the Jaguars don’t like what they get.
The Jaguars’ top backup running back is probably going to lead the team as RB Darren McFadden looks to have done in limited time so far.
At this point it’s a bit unclear how they’re going to use T.J. Yeldon and how it’s going to affect Yeldon’s effectiveness as the team’s top backup running back in the absence of Fournette. Although Yeldon has all of the tools and experience to be a top-flight player (especially after his outstanding rookie year - he was one of the most accurate athletes on the team by far and didn’t miss a beat in his second season) he’s been inconsistent throughout the preseason so far. In that sense, he’s been a bit of a wild card, which will affect how much he plays this season as well. The two-time Pro-Bowler is also a former starter who struggled mightily throughout the offseason and minicamp. Regardless, he’s the most experienced of the three and is, as far as we can tell at this point, expected to have a bigger responsibility as a leader of the running back unit if Fournette can’t go on Sunday afternoon.
With this roster projection in mind, it’s easy to see why the team is putting two rookies and a lightly used veteran on the active roster. If they keep three running backs - a number they were using down the stretch a few years ago - these two rookies are getting a massive amount of playing time as well. However, given Yeldon’s issues this preseason, it may be wise to continue putting the rookie on the practice squad as well.
I also think that the team will keep two other players in the backcourt - RB Denard Robinson and WR Robert Woods - and either pair or two rookies while they still have four or five backups. Again, keeping someone in the backcourt and/or three running backs is a smart way to have enough bodies on the roster without having to rely on the bench.