Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette, the fourth overall selection in April's Draft, is taking the NFL by storm. He's second in the NFL in rushing yards with 466. His five rushing TDs leads the NFL. He's proven the critics wrong by being an excellent receiving back - already catching 13 passes out of the backfield and scoring a TD as a receiver. And he's shown why he was such a dynamic talent, scoring a 90 yard TD in the Jaguars week five win over Pittsburgh.
Yes, Fournette is exceeding even the wildest of expectations to this point in his young career. Heck, he's already made it to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio (His jersey from the 90 yard run will be placed in the Hall of Fame - he is the youngest player in NFL history to record a run of 90 yards).
But Fournette needs to improve in one critical area: Pass Protection.
In the Jaguars week five win over the Steelers Fournette allowed a blitzing linebacker to easily sack Blake Bortles on a first down play. The Jaguars rookie running back shouldn't be expected to hold blocks as long as an offensive lineman, but he is expected to at least slow down incoming blitzers - something he failed to do on that play. The Jaguars are a team that relies on keeping up good down and distance situations. Fournette giving up a sack on a first down play can ruin a drive, and more importantly throw off Blake Bortles' timing and confidence. It hadn't been an issue prior to the Steelers game, but when Bortles only drops back 14 times in a game, he needs to have good protection.
Fournette will need to sure up his assignments in pass blocking, and quick. The Rams come to town on Sunday and they know very well how to get after the QB. Led by Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the Rams defense has recorded 15 sacks so far in 2017. Wade Phillips defenses are known to bring the blitz, something he wasn't afraid to do last year when he was coordinating the Broncos defense - he blitzed Bortles on 18 of his 47 drop backs. It's unlikely that Bortles gets anywhere near that many drop backs in this one, but that makes each one even more important. Leonard Fournette will need to be ready to take on incoming blitzers.
There's nothing to suggest that Fournette can't become an excellent back in pass protection. But make no mistake, he will be tested by the Rams defense.
Do you feel confident that Fournette will handle business against the Rams? Let us know in the comments below.
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