INDIANAPOLIS — For the second straight week, the Indianapolis Colts will head into an AFC South Division matchup not completely sure about the status of one of their rivals' best offensive players.
Last week, a hamstring injury limited Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota in practices before he was cleared to play Monday night against the Colts in Nashville.
This time around, it's the Jacksonville Jaguars and their star rookie running back, Leonard Fournette.
Fournette — the fourth-overall pick in this year's NFL Draft — sprained his right ankle last Sunday in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars' 27-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and was not seen on the field again, despite the fact he was eventually cleared to return, head coach Doug Marrone said.
With the focus now turned towards Sunday's game against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, Fournette did not practice on Wednesday, and he was not expected to participate in Thursday's session, either.
"He was ready to go back in after the end of the game, but there's a lot of adrenaline that goes into that, you know, that you are able to do that," Marrone said Wednesday. "You just have to wait and see how things go the following week."
Fournette has been the featured piece of the NFL's best running attack through six weeks, as the Jaguars enter Sunday's game averaging 165.8 rushing yards per game — more than 28 yards per game more than the second-place Houston Texans.
A former LSU star, Fournette ranks second in the league in rushing with 596 yards; he's averaging 4.6 yards per carry and also has six scores on the ground.
But just like last week against the Titans and Mariota, the Colts will prepare for Sunday's game as if Fournette will play, and then adjust from there if he's unable to go.
Fournette is backed up by eighth-year veteran Chris Ivory, who has ran the ball 40 times for 162 yards (4.1 yards per carry) so far this season.
"They're physical. Old school, smash mouth, two-back," Colts safety Darius Butler said of the Jaguars' offensive approach. "It starts with the run game. Obviously, (Leonard) Fournette — he is as advertised. He brings you everything you want in a running back so we've got to stop him first and foremost. (Chris) Ivory runs the ball well, too. We've got to take away the running game first."
Jacksonville's run game has been a huge reason behind its 3-3 start to the season to this point, and has helped cover ground for its passing game, which ranks 29th in the league at 169.7 yards per game.
Quarterback Blake Bortles returns for his fourth season running the Jaguars' offense, and has overcome a slow start to complete 97-of-170 passes (57 percent) for 1,068 yards and eight touchdowns to five interceptions.
With their bye week looming after Sunday's game, Bortles said the need for the Jaguars to get a win in the division and move to better than .500 is "huge."
"I think every game that we've played so far has been huge for the fact that we want to be able to become a consistent football team and win week in and week out," Bortles said. "I've said it before and I know a bunch of other guys have, it feels as though we have the team to be able to do that, to win on a weekly basis, and there's not a bigger game than a divisional game within the season, so it's definitely a big one going into the bye week."