After a rookie campaign that saw him run for 1,040 yards, Leonard Fournette is already 11th on the Jacksonville Jaguars career rushing list.
Fournette is just getting started.
I know it might not seem like a big deal, but if you take Mark Brunell, David Garrard and Blake Bortles off this list, Fournette is firmly entrenched at eighth all-time in career rushing yards. That might be an indictment on how this franchise has lacked dominant running backs in the past. It also might mean the future is bright for the former LSU star as this could be a special season for No. 27.
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The NFL is a numbers league, so here are a few facts to consider. If Fournette were to match his rookie season, he would stand fifth in career rushing yards after the 2018 season. If he gets to 1,200 yards, he would be fourth. Fournette has a long way to go to catch both Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that should he continue to rush through opposing defenses in teal and black, he could challenge or eclipse the career rushing marks of the two former Jacksonville greats.
There is already plenty riding on the former LSU star’s second season – one that could mean bigger stats and more touchdown opportunities. An improved offensive line coupled with more weapons in the Jaguars passing attack may mean teams must pick their poison – try to stop the 6-foot, 224-pound runner, or try and halt a passing game that should be better in 2018.
The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, but no running back faced more eight-man fronts than Fournette last year. Opposing defenses dared the Jaguars to beat them with the pass. This year, that could be a nightmare.
Of course, health is a concern for Fournette, who battled ankle and leg injuries last season. The greatest second season by a running back in Jacksonville shouldn’t be an issue. Taylor was injured and missed six games in 1999 while rushing for 732 yards. Jones-Drew shared the backfield with Taylor and amassed 768 yards on the ground.
Fournette told the media upon his return to the team for minicamp his only goal was to help his teammates get to the Super Bowl. A leaner body and more desire might just do that.
Fournette averaged 3.9 yards last season on 268 carries. If he remains healthy, plays all 16 games and raises his average per carry to 4.0 yards on 329 carries – which is what he would have during the season, Fournette could have 1,300 yards
I am on record as stating I think 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns are a strong possibility.
Fournette has a chance to prove me right. He has a long way to go to approach the numbers Taylor (11,271 yards) and Jones-Drew (8,071 yards) had with the Jaguars. But seeing how he fared in his first season in the league, it’s a strong bet if he stays healthy and remains with the Jaguars past his rookie contract, he could stake his claim as the best running back the franchise has ever had.