Leonard Fournette might be the next rookie running back to win the NFL rushing title. The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars schedule will be a major factor in his success.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had only one player to lead the NFL in rushing. Maurice Jones-Drew did in the 2011 season. He gained 1606 yards on 343 carries with eight touchdowns. He averaged 100.4 yards per game in winning the NFL rushing title.
Fred Taylor rushed for over a 1000 yards in seven seasons. Taylor ran for 1572 yards in 2003. He is the Jaguars franchise leader in yards gained with 11,271 yards. In 2000, he averaged 107.6 yards per game.
The Jaguars have not had a running back gain 1000 yards since 2011. Jacksonville has taken the running back-by-committee approach lately. As a result, T.J. Yeldon, Chris Ivory, and Denard Robinson gained a combined 1048 yards in 2016.
Leonard Fournette was selected in the first round because the Jaguars running game needs help. The Jaguars finished 2016 as the twenty second ranked rushing offense. Consequently, Jacksonville was essentially a one dimension team last season.
"“He had one drop today, but I think that’s the only drop he’s had since we’ve been out there,” Marrone said. “When people were talking about, ‘Can he catch? …’ The one thing I have been impressed with is he’s caught the ball well.”"
Is it possible that Fournette will be the featured back due to his running and receiving skills? How will the defenses that Fournette will face in 2017 rank against the run? Will he be able to gain over 1000 yards in 2017?
Ranking The Rushing Defenses That Leonard Fournette Will Face In 2017
The Houston Texans will be his first test in week one. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com ranks the Texans as the number one front seven in 2017. In 2016, Houston gave up only 99.7 rushing yards per game. Hopefully, Fournette will run for 100 yards in both match ups.
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In the next two weeks, Tennessee and Baltimore will try to stuff him. Fournette will have to trust his offensive line and grind out tough yards against these opponents. Tennessee and Baltimore averaged less than 90 yards per game by opposing runners.
Finally, the remaining tough defenses, against the run are Seattle, Arizona, and the Los Angeles Chargers. He should be able to get his hundred yards and then some. Pittsburgh, N.Y. Jets, and LA Rams will be another 100+ yard effort by Fournette. He might get 200 yards against San Francisco, Cleveland and Indianapolis (twice).
It’s possible for Leonard Fournette to be the next Jaguars 1000 yard and NFL Rushing Leader. The schedule sets him up for success with only a few truly tough defenses to test him. He needs to stay healthy and good things will happen in 2017.