Quite a lot has been made about Leonard Fournette's sophomore campaign. A season that was marred by injury and a one-game suspension for fighting an opposing player has left fans and media wondering about the future of the former fourth overall pick in the draft.
Following the season Fournette met with head coach Doug Marrone, and both sides came away from the meeting feeling positive about their future together. Soon after that meeting, Tom Coughlin told the media that the two sides would "move forward together" into the 2019 season.
The team's stance on Leonard Fournette hasn't changed since that time. In a recent press conference at the NFL Combine, Doug Marrone told the media that he expects LF27 to be a workhorse for the Jaguars in 2019 and spoke highly of where Fournette was both mentally and physically.
Currently, Fournette is working out in Wyoming with a trainer he felt comfortable with from his days at LSU. In Wyoming, he thinks that he can block out the noise and focus on being a better runner, athlete, and teammate.
As you already know, the Jaguars signed Nick Foles to an $88 million contract at the start of free agency. Many fans have questioned whether Fournette can thrive in the type of offense that Nick Foles needs to operate in to be successful.
I think the answer is a resounding yes. Foles likes to throw from the shotgun. He loves to hit running backs and receivers on quick dink-and-dunk type throws and then mix in some deep and intermediate shots down the field.
While some believe Fournette can't find success in such an offense, I think there's evidence that suggests the opposite.
First of all, Fournette excels as a pass catcher and blocker out of the gun. During his two years in Jacksonville (including the playoffs) Fournette has hauled in 65 of 78 targets, good for a catch rate of 83%, and has done commendable work when asked to pick up incoming blitzers. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and pass block will serve Foles well in Jacksonville. St. Nick targets running backs an average of 8.6 times per start in 2018 and did so no fewer than seven times in any of his five regular season games. These two critical pieces to the Jags offensive puzzle should be able to connect immediately in the quick passing game.
Some fans claim that Fournette struggles to run the ball from the shotgun, but that's simply not the case. When given the rare opportunity to run the ball from the gun in 2018, Fournette actually was able to create some impressive plays. And given more opportunity to work from the gun throughout the offseason program and training camp, Fournette's comfortability in running from the shotgun should only improve.
Leonard Fournette's yards per carry average leaves a lot to be desired, but it's a flawed stat. Not only was Fournette's run blocking sub-par in 2018, but since joining the Jaguars, he has faced an inordinate amount of seven, eight and nine-man boxes. If the offense can keep defenses off balanced, it seems likely that Fournette will be able to have a resurgent third year in the NFL.
Of course, all of this hinges on Fournette's health. The third-year back has had trouble staying healthy throughout his NFL and college career. But if he remains healthy, Fournette — with a strong dose of rushing and receiving attempts — could be on his way to the Pro Bowl in 2019.
Still, with such a high probability of injury, the Jaguars should address the running back position on the second day of the draft. They need a Leonard Fournette insurance policy.
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