Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette is the real contingency plan

Sep 19, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) against the Auburn Tigers before a game against the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) against the Auburn Tigers before a game against the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette was brought in to balance the offense, but he could be the real contingency plan for if Blake Bortles fails at quarterback.

While not ideal in the modern NFL, a top-flight running back can still carry a team on his back. This may be a task that Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette finds forced upon him.

Few players are physically gifted enough, durable enough, or diligent enough to take a team and carry it independently. It is something that usually falls to a quarterback and players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are lauded for their abilities to single-handedly carry teams at the NFL’s most important position.

That role was once not exclusive to quarterbacks. In fact, in rare cases, it still isn’t.

While the NFL is still as pass-happy as ever, running backs are still capable of carrying teams to success. It is rare and it takes a special player to do it – just like at the quarterback position – but some players can.

In looking at contingency plan options for quarterback Blake Bortles, Yahoo! Sports’ Myles Stedman suggests Kirk Cousins or Sam Bradford as possible options. Stedman touches on head coach Doug Marrone‘s ideal zero-throw game from Bortles, but spins it toward finding an accurate quarterback to play that role not toward a situation in which the quarterback plays second-fiddle.

If Bortles struggles, the team will not have the ability to turn to a new quarterback like Cousins or Bradford in the middle of the season. Instead, they will have to turn to a player already on the roster, and that player will be Fournette. Fournette better be able to produce right away.

And if he can, he could resemble Adrian Peterson in more than just his size and speed. If Fournette can prove himself capable in the 2017 season, the Jaguars contingency plan may just be shifting the franchise focus from the quarterback position to the running back position.

Peterson played this role for the Minnesota Vikings to surprising success through his 10 seasons there (nine seasons if we discount his 2014 suspension). Since entering the NFL in 2007, Peterson has carried the Vikings to four playoff appearances despite the team churning through three head coaches and featuring 13 different stating quarterbacks.

Few running backs are capable of turning Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Christian Ponder, and Teddy Bridgewater into playoff quarterbacks. Favre was special and Bridgewater accurate, but the ability to carry them all is downright amazing. Even the fact that Frerotte and Ponder have playoff games on their resumes is a testament to the ability of a running back to carry a team.

With Peterson in the backfield, the Vikings were always a threat no matter who was under center. He is perhaps the only running back in the last 10 years that has been able to single-handedly carry a team like that, but he proves it is possible.

With Marrone emphasizing the run game to the point where he is willing to run it 100 percent of the time, Fournette has the opportunity to do for the Jacksonville Jaguars what Peterson has done for the Vikings.

Related Story: Leonard Fournette is about more than just power

This is all built on the assumption that Bortles continues to regress and also that Fournette is legitimately the second coming of Purple Jesus. Those are two big assumptions, but they create a situation that the Jaguars are built to entertain. If it comes to it, the Jags may see if Fournette can carry the team in 2017 and beyond like only few running backs can.

This will require seasons with over 1500 yards and it will require double-digit touchdowns and more touches than most backs can handle. It will require a generational talent to carry that responsibility. Fournette has been billed as that talent. Now he needs to prove it.