Three reasons why Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette will bounce back in 2019
This could be a career-defining season for Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette
Jaguars running back and former first-round draft pick Leonard Fournette struggled last season, but he seems recommitted and is looking to bounce back and be one of the NFL’s elite. Here are three reasons why that will happen.
Fournette struggles last season included injuries, a suspension for one game by the NFL, and production. It is not what Jacksonville had in mind for their sophomore back who showed so much promise during his rookie season. He was expected to become one of the elite backs in the NFL, but now he is a back who is not just looking to elude defenders, but also avoid the dreaded “bust” label that comes when a top-five pick struggles.
Before looking at why next season will be different let’s take a look at Fournette last season. He averaged only 3.3 yards per carry, which is well below the 4.5 – 5.0 range that most elite backs desire. When looking at rushing stats last season, Fournette was the 46th ranked back in all eligible backs.
However, an offensive attack with very little threat in the passing game surely contributed to such a low output.
Struggling with injury also was a likely cause because Leonard never got his footing.
With that being said, last year is over. This season brings new hope that surrounds the Jaguars camp. Here are the three reasons why Fournette will bounce back next season and become an elite running back.
1) New Offense and new Quarterback
As previously discussed, quarterback Nick Foles will force opposing defenses to respect the passing game. This means that there will no longer be eight men in the box that Fournette will have to face. Drafting right tackle Jawaan Taylor, and having offensive lineman returning from injury will also open up running lanes for the running game.
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These factors alone should mean improvement for the running backs and the entire Jaguars offense as a whole. Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo also put a lot of faith in Fournette when speaking to the media during the first week of OTAs.
"“We’re really looking forward to Leonard having a big year,” he said.“I’m going to call it what it is: He’s going to be a major reason where our offense goes. I’m not going to sugarcoat that. … The harder he works—which he is right now—that’s going to be not only good for our offense, but good for our team.”"
Fournette is going to have a big role with this team, and with a more respected passing game and better offensive line play there will be no excuse for him to struggle.
2) Fournette looks hungry…. really hungry
One look at Leonard Fournette’s social media and you can see that he wants to put last year behind him. He has been putting in a lot of work in the offseason to return as one of the elite running backs in the NFL.
This comeback began in Wyoming, and with that visions of Leonard Fournette training like Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV came to mind. Even head coach Doug Marrone commented on this via Jaguars.com stating:
"“He has been working out, working hard. Obviously when he told me about Wyoming, I was like, ‘Wyoming?’ He might be the first player ever, nothing against Wyoming, but the first player ever … I was like, ‘Wyoming? Why are you going to Wyoming?’”"
With his hard work and natural talent that Fournette posses, there is a strong chance that he has a bounce-back season.
3) He has no other option
Fournette is in the end game now, and much like the Avengers in their recent film, he may only have one shot left. For a player who is as talented as he is there is only one option after a down sophomore year, and that is to return this season and be the beast that Duval knows he can be.
He isn’t the first back to have issues after his rookie year, Todd Gurley averaged only 3.2 yards per carry his sophomore year in an offense much like Fournette, but the blame more fell on the shoulders of former Rams coach Jeff Fisher.
Fournette is a talented back who could find himself among the NFL’s elite. If that jump isn’t made this season Jacksonville has drafted a running back this year in Ryquell Armstead who could possibly serve as a replacement.