Does a lead blocker make sense to help Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette get more yards past the line of scrimmage?
The current Jaguars chatter on social media is very dismissive of Leonard Fournette. The savior of 2017, who helped the team lead the NFL in yards per game, is rapidly becoming a non-factor in the team’s offense in 2019.
The frustration with the Jaguars current running game is at a slow boil. Although coaches and writers are supporting Fournette, the fan base is not. Has Fournette lost his ability to become an effective runner? The chatter is getting louder as the weeks go by and I confess that I was part of it until now.
What happened to change my mind, you might ask? It happened on the very first Jaguars offensive play of the game against the Tennessee Titans. The Jaguars had a lead blocker in front of Fournette and he ran for 14 yards. Sadly a holding penalty called back the play. I have tried to see a film of that play with no luck. This play gave me an idea and this story is a result.
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Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone mentioned when met with the media following Thursday night’s win, that the Jaguars need to get the running game going. He discussed his concerns for the offensive line and that makes sense because the group hasn’t played together and isn’t blocking well.
"As reported by David Levin here at Black and Teal, “At times Fournette looked frustrated as he could not get through his blockers for positive yards and every time the Jaguars ran through the middle of the Tennessee defense it seemed as though the defenders have an answer for the team’s running game.”"
Does this mean Fournette isn’t the back we thought he would be this season? Not so fast. The announcers for the NFL Network Video of the game on Jaguars.com shows how Fournette turned a night in which he had negative yards on the ground well into the fourth quarter in a positive with a 69-yard gallop. All of a sudden Fournette looked like the Fournette of old. What caused the change?
"The answer lies in the draft and scouting reports. WalterFootball.com reported back in 2017 that Fournette is a solid running back if there is a hole for him to run through. “Fournette is very fast with a burst to the hole and a second gear in the open field.”"
The problem is simple. With no hole and the offensive line not getting enough push from upfront, the Jaguars running back, who played on every snap on Thursday night, keeps running into a wall of defenders. This negates the open field abilities.
"As SI.com’ Chris Burke wrote about Fournette prior to the NFL Draft, “Fournette is going to get downhill with force but he needs a lane to do it… Fournette describes himself as a “north-and-south runner. Can make defenders miss, can run over them, can run past them.”"
Watch the videos of his college highlights and you will see a lead blocker in almost every play. In fact, he thanked his fullback numerous times. Fast forward to 2017 and you will see Tommy Bohanon as his lead blocker on many plays. Some of the early plays in 2018 followed the same pattern. The Jaguars went to a one-back set which does not complement Fournette’s skill set. The line alone just doesn’t open holes for him.
In my opinion, the team should add a lead blocker on some running plays and see what happens. Give Fournette a chance to use his talents. Honestly, if that happens, you will see the runner that we drafted in the first round.