The Jacksonville Jaguars know Leonard Fournette is a great runner and a playmaker on the field. Now head coach Doug Marrone wants him to become a more complete player, and that means growing as a pass protector who can pick up blitzing defenders.
After Day 1 of mini camp, Marrone was asked about what he wants to see from Fournette in his second year. After a little bit of fluff, Marrone honed in on something very specific and I think it was pretty telling.
“Again, Leonard is a playmaker, so we’re trying to get him on the field as much as we can and keep pushing him over to third down and things of that nature. I thought he did a very job at the end of the year in the protection phase of things — really stepping up there with blitzing linebackers and really taking them on. He showed great growth in his first year from that because that’s usually the toughest thing. As far as college, a lot of stuff comes from the field or the corner from the boundary from a pressure standpoint. But in the NFL week-to-week, each team has their own little unique package that you really have to study and try to get a bead on to be able to [have] pass protection pick-up. I really saw him at the end of the year do a great job of that. You want to see that again now. You want to see where he was at with that, doing that. Obviously, anyone who is on our team that can make plays — we want them out there on the field as much as we can and we also want them out there when the game is on the line.”
By our count, Fournette was responsible (at least partly) for two of the 29 sacks the Jaguars gave up in 19 games last year. Here’s the first one in Week 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The second was a whiff that looks nearly identical that Fournette had in the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots and I guarantee it’s a play that Marrone had playing in his head as he answered his question.
Add to that a handful of pressures, most of which occurred in the first half of the season, and you’ve got the reason why Marrone’s mind immediately went to this.