Could 2019 be a Pro Bowl season for Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette?
By David Levin
After a 2018 season that was full of injuries and controversy, will Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette turn his misfortunes into a Pro Bowl nod in 2019?
It wasn’t the kind of season Jaguars star running back Leonard Fournette envisioned when he spoke to the media in training camp. A second-year player on the rise, rushing for 1,040 yards in 2017, only the second time in franchise history a rookie had eclipsed the century mark.
The numbers weren’t gargantuan by any means, but the Jaguars offense was designed to feature the former LSU star and use his legs to carry this team toward the playoffs. Along with the defense, it worked. The 2018 season was a blur as Fournette missed games due to injury and suspension.
The team took away his guarantees in his rookie deal after a fight in the game against the Buffalo Bills that led to a one-game suspension.
Add the rumors of the front office not being pleased with Fournette’s behavior or commitment to the team and everything boiled over after the 20-3 loss to Houston in the season finale.
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With time comes change and a chance to process. Leonard Fournette, the fourth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, met with the Jaguars to clear the air, hopefully wiping the slate clean and start over. Could the poor showing this past season, coupled with a new running backs coach in Terry Robiskie and offensive coordinator in John DiFilippo lead to a Pro Bowl nod for No. 27 in 2019?
It could. Will it? That remains a mystery. John Oehser of Jaguars.com listed Fournette as one of five players who could crack the Pro Bowl roster next season. He admits it’s hard to fathom such a jump, but a refocused Fournette could mean big numbers and potential success for this franchise.
"“OK, it’s difficult based on this past season to imagine Fournette at a Pro Bowl level. He played just eight games in 2018, missing seven with injuries; when he did play, he only occasionally approached the level he showed at times in his rookie season,” Oehser wrote.“He also had well-publicized off-field issues, including a one-game suspension for his role in a multi-player altercation against the Buffalo Bills. But remember: Fournette was the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft and he was the No. 58 player on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2018. He also rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie – and there have been multiple games in Fournette’s two seasons when his physicality and speed helped make the Jaguars effective on offense.”"
The Jaguars will have a different look next season within its running backs room. T.J. Yeldon figures to hit free agency. Corey Grant is a free agent and missed 11 games due to a Lisfranc injury. David Williams will likely be back as a move the chains type of back. There is no word yet on whether the team will keep Carlos Hyde, paying him $4.75 million next season.
With all that about to take place, the one thing for sure is this offense and organization needs a healthy Fournette – the one who told the media his only goal for 2018 was to make the Super Bowl.
"“Fournette at his best makes the Jaguars significantly better offensively,” Oehser adds. “The Jaguars need him at his best far more consistently in 2019.”"
If DiFilippo’s offense creates a balanced attack, led by Leonard Fournette and the running game, there could be another 1,000-yards season in his future. Jacksonville figures to remain a run-first team as it has done the past two seasons.
A healthy Fournette almost guarantees the offensive play from last season won’t become a habit. It could just be an aberration of what this team truly wants to do on that side of the ball.