If you’ve been following the Jacksonville Jaguars run game, it seems that Leonard Fournette hasn’t looked as well as compared to the first half of the season. Some say it’s a chronic ankle injury, or that he isn’t getting the ball enough. Others say it’s the injuries to the offensive line.
But he is playing exactly how he is supposed to be playing.
Opponents have been scheming around his running style by loading the box and blitzing almost every snap. When he gets 20 or more carries he averages over 3.0 yards per attempt and right now has eight rushing touchdowns on the season which is third overall in the NFL and still leading with the longest rush on the season.
Yes, when Patrick Omameh and Jermey Parnell were injured against the Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts, Fournette only rushed for a combined 82 yards but only touched the ball an overall 32 times. Normally, he averages about 25 attempts per game.
When your offensive line is hurt, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has done what he is supposed to do, change the offensive game plan. Bortles threw the ball over 30 times over those two games and also over the last three weeks, he has rushed the ball himself 16 times.
When Fournette has his offensive line pic.twitter.com/TEtgvT99u0— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) December 14, 2017
Fournette has done really well when his line has gotten out in front of him. Against Seattle he finally had his starting offensive line back and in the following play he gained 14 yards with the double pull that included his left and right guard. Omameh was able to get out on the defensive end and A.J. Cann picked up the inside linebacker. This is what I like to call textbook blocking.
Linder getting out to block :) pic.twitter.com/ndC4fwKmdE— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) December 14, 2017
Oh "Mameh" how I missed you pic.twitter.com/nLR3jvULKG— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) December 14, 2017
One of the things about Fournette coming out of college was his ability to hit the hole very quickly and he loves to take the quickest route to the first down marker, this is directly up the middle. Well, defenses lately have been doing their homework and blitz the A and B gaps, and they want to force him to the outside and this gives the offensive a good opportunity for some guard pulls generating some great runs by Fournette.
Of course the record breaking run against the Pittburgh Steelers was a run showing how he utilizes his run blockers and how quick he hits the hole.
AJ Cann doing his thing.. I love the pull, most underrated task of any position in the entire NFL pic.twitter.com/C2FiMosrh1— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) December 14, 2017
Blake has been forced to throw because defenses have been loading the box, over the last couple weeks there have been more blitz’s equaling more press coverage or one-on-one coverages on the outside. Fournette has rushed for an average 3.0 yards per attempt when there are more than six men rushing.
Unfortunately this is what teams have been doing the last couple weeks. Ankle injury plus backup OL, plus loaded box equals... run stuff. Blake has been forced to throw more but has exceeded expectations.. something nobody actually expected :) pic.twitter.com/9mStHt0Gn7— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) December 14, 2017
It’s been tough for a rookie trying to adjust to a defense that dedicates majority of their game plan to stopping you. This is part of the reason why Blake Bortles has been playing well. Bortles has been able to make the throws when the defense forces favorable matchups on the outside. Fournette just being here has actually given Blake Bortles an opportunity this year to take his time and get used to these rookie receivers in order to ease into this 2017 despite the injuries to the veteran wide receivers. Even though many disagreed with the Jaguars’ third overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, its clearly a piece of this team that was missing.