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Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette has embraced three-down back challenge this season

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In his best year since college, Leonard Fournette has proven himself as a full-time running back

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Yet to miss a single practice this season, Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has had a resurgence in his third season as the Jaguars’ bell cow.

During the first two seasons of Fournette’s career, he missed 11 games due to injury including eight in 2018 while dealing with a lingering hamstring injury. This week marks the first time of the season Fournette has even appeared on the injury report, marked down as limited with a neck injury on Wednesday.

In the best year of his career since his junior year of college, Fournette has accumulated 1,704 yards from scrimmage including 1,152 rushing yards and 522 receiving yards. The former LSU Tiger has more catches this season (76) than he has had the rest of his career (58).

Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said on Thursday that while he was not hear for Fournette’s first two seasons, he challenged the third-year player to be more of a three-down running back this season. Fournette has accepted and embraced the opportunity to do just that.

“Leonard’s had a great season, and everything we’ve challenged him to do from the start of spring,” DeFilippo said.

“He and I talked about being a three-down back and embracing catching the football, embracing pass protection, and obviously doing his job as a running back as well. He’s accepted all those challenges.”

While is touchdowns are down this season (3), Fournette has made up for it between the 20s with 78 first downs — according to footballdb.com — by way of running and catching the football. His 78 first downs make up 31.7% of all first downs (246) the Jaguars have accumulated on the ground or through the air this season.

While the season hasn’t gone as well as anyone within the organization has hoped, the Jaguars running back has been one of the few bright spots of the season.

Shortly after practice on Thursday Fournette spoke about his season. One of his two goals — staying health and winning a Superbowl —, has been accomplished and Fournette believes in a “couple years”, he can accomplish the latter as well.

Fournette credits the work DeFilippo has put in with him this season to allow him to be more of a complete back instead of simply a power running back, by way of throwing the football to him and allowing the third-year running back to play pass protection as well.

“He’s done a great job of distributing the ball in different ways other than running the ball,” Fournette said. “Just showing off that I can be more than just a power back running the ball.”

Fournette ventured to Wyoming earlier this offseason to train and get his mind and body ready for the grueling 16-game season. He says while he is planning to do the same thing, it may not be in Wyoming this go-around. “They gonna have to move somewhere else.”

“Just be better than the last two years I played. It wasn’t just me the guys I worked out with in the offseason.”

Another offseason’s worth of training with his former LSU strength and conditioning coach, Ben Iannacchione, will do wonders for the young back who would likely have had a case for the NFL’s comeback player of the year award had it not been for the team’s record this season.