The Jacksonville Jaguars have a problem at running back. Through the first two games of the season, the production in the run game is concerning but so is the distribution of who is getting the chances throughout games.
There is only one running back who has carried the ball more than one time — Leonard Fournette.
There is only one running back who has a single catch — Leonard Fournette.
There is only one running back who has been targeted with at least one pass in both games — Leonard Fournette.
And there is only one running back who has seen at least one snap in both games — Leonard Fournette.
The offensive distribution at running back is tilted heavily towards Fournette but the production isn’t really there to justify it. The offense has run 124 plays and Fournette has been in for 114 of them. What does he have to show for it?
56.5 rushing yards per game. 90.5 total yards per game. His longest rush is 14 yards. He hasn’t scored.
While some of this is on a poor performance by the offensive line last week against the Houston Texans, that argument only gets so far. There are running backs in the league doing much better with bad offensive line play. These are talent, personnel, and scheme problems.
And when he was asked specifically about rotating in other running backs, like fifth round draft pick Ryquell Armstead, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo instead deflected to how well he thinks Fournette is doing.
“Leonard is playing at a high-level right now,” DeFilippo said after practice on Tuesday. “I’m pleased with the way Leonard is playing. That was a pretty good play he made on the 20-yard gain on the swing pass. I love the way Leonard is playing right now. I love his mindset; I love where he is mentally. He is into it right now and that’s what we need. As you see us go along into the season, there’s no doubt we will get a little bit more of a rotation in there as those guys grow. At the same time, I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard to take a player like Leonard Fournette out of the game. It really is. The way he’s playing right now and buying in and doing what we’re asking him to do. Pass protecting, catching the ball, running downhill, and all the things you ask big-time backs to do. It’s hard to take them out of the game. As long as he stays healthy, you’re going to see Leonard Fournette a lot.”
Again — 56.5 rushing yards per game. 90.5 total yards per game. His longest rush is 14 yards. He hasn’t scored.
This is a weird response for a running back who is trailing the likes of Carlos Hyde and both running backs for the Los Angeles Chargers. He’s sandwiched between Peyton Barber and Royce Freeman in terms of rushing yards through Week 2. That’s the production we currently have in Jacksonville.
And when DeFilippo talks about catching the ball, well, that doesn’t hold water either. He’s tied with Raheem Mostert for receiving yards — except Fournette has twice as many catches.
Fournette is being used as a bell cow back, probably more so than most other running backs in the league, but his rushing yardage and total yardage is better only than a few starters. It’s time to change up both how and when we use Fournette. Flank him out, give him some screens, let him catch slants over the middle. But also, give Armstead the 10-15 change of pace snaps he needs every game, both to keep Fournette fresh and allow your offense to do something different.
Because so far it isn’t working. And running Fournette into the ground is only going to make it worse.