Is this a season of redemption for Leonard Fournette?
By David Levin
After one good season followed by one poor season, will this be “THE” season Leonard Fournette joins the NFL’s elite running backs?
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette continues to be one of the most talked-about players in the NFL this offseason. The third-year back and former first-round draft pick out of LSU has a chance to erase doubt that has crept into the minds of the local and national media that the power back may not be totally committed to the Jaguars organization by doing two things – running the football with authority and staying healthy for an entire NFL season.
If you want to throw in the caveat that he must also stay in the good graces of the front office, most notably Executive V.P. Tom Coughlin, then it’s a trifecta that will ultimately decide his fate in North Florida.
Yes, you could say this is a crossroads season for the young man, but everyone has written that. How about this could be the season that No. 27 puts it all together and leads the Jaguars back to the playoffs. It could happen, and with a feat of that proportion, it means the Jaguars will once again have a running game that is feared by opponents.
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A more balanced attack, with Nick Foles slinging footballs all over TIAA Bank Field, could also bring this offense more success and approach the 2017 version of this roster, the one that averaged 26.1 points a contest, which was sixth-best in the NFL.
Anything would be better than the ugly 15.3 points a game this team struggled to last season, which was only better than the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. With training camp approaching next week and a feeling of heightened anticipation, Leonard Fournette could become one of the more feared running backs in the NFL.
Maurice Jones-Drew rated Fournette as the 16th best starting running back in the NFL last month. That could change over the course of the 17-week season. But in reality, Fournette needs to leapfrog those in front of him. He needs to take more command of the offense, become a leader on the field. It’s a gamble by the team to hope he can change gears this season as much as it is a gamble by the player to bet on himself.
"“Over the last five years, five running backs have been drafted in the top 10,” writes Gennaro Filice of NFL.com. “Four of them — Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley — have provided spectacular returns on investment. And then there’s Fournette.”"
The Jaguars would gladly like to see their investment improve in every facet of his NFL career. Maturity is a question. Ability has never been an issue as long as he can stay healthy.
So instead of talking about the “make or break” season Fournette faces, we should embrace this as a chance for redemption.
"“In between, he rushed for just 439 yards at a minuscule 3.3 a pop, got into a mid-game fistfight that cost him a game and a half and missed seven other contests due to various injuries,” Filice added. “Consequently, the Jaguars went from leading the league in rushing in 2017 to finishing 19th last year. But Jacksonville still wants — and yes, taking a look at the RB depth chart, needs — Fournette to live up to his draft pedigree this fall.”"
And should he do that, this Jaguars team could make many of the non-believers rethink their thought process. All it would take is rededication and a true commitment to change The Jaguars want it. Fournette has said he does as well. Now it’s time to make that happen.