After three years of being the primary back in college at LSU, running back Leonard Fournette was selected by the Jaguars with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft and immediately became a focal point of the Jaguars’ offense.

But after just three seasons with the Jaguars, Fournette was released and signed by the Bucs to a one-year contract worth $2 million dollars. And for the first time in a long time Fournette was no longer the featured star in his team’s backfield, sitting behind third-year running back Ronald Jones II on Tampa Bay’s depth chart. Not only was Fournette forced to take a back seat to Jones in the 2020 season, he even found himself inactive for the Bucs’ Week 14 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

“It was difficult but like I said, it’s a learning year for me,” Fournette said about being a healthy scratch coming out of the Bucs’ bye week. “[Jones] is doing a great job, doing his thing. I hope, hopefully this game, that he can get that 1,000 yards. I hope he gets that and I think he deserves that, he deserve that deeply. So my job was to come in and motivate a lot of guys. I’ve been in those shoes and I’m just coming in here to be another piece of the puzzle for the team.”

But after being inactive for just a game, Fournette reclaimed a starting role when Jones found himself on the league’s Reserve/COVID-19 list and had to miss two consecutive contests. Over that two-game span in Week 15 and Week 16, Fournette totaled 83 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

“I handled it like I was supposed to, like a pro,” Fournette said about his performance. “Despite whatever occurs on our team, we have four to five running backs that can always fulfill that job and come in and do what we have to do. I had the opportunity to help the team and that’s what I did.”

RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

And although it wasn’t an easy transition for Fournette, going from star to backup, he leaned on a familiar veteran in LeSean McCoy to navigate through the process.

“I think our relationship has gotten better,” Fournette said about McCoy. “I’ve always known him but not that I’m physically with him every day it’s a wonderful feeling. And then I think he was the first person to reach out to me when I got cut by the Jaguars too because he’s been through that, he’s been through that phase in his life. And I think that it’s been the best thing for me having someone older in our room. Usually I’m the oldest guy in our room but having someone who’s experience that, who’s been through that and who’s a Hall of Famer, he’s going to get a gold jacket when he’s done with all this football stuff.”

But it wasn’t only McCoy that Fournette credits with his transformation toward a better person and player, as he pointed to a number of teammates in what has rapidly become one of the more experienced locker rooms in the NFL.

“I think just [McCoy] being there, even through my tough times when I wasn’t starting, he told me, ‘it’s all a part of God’s plan,’ because I’m not used to that,” Fournette said. “Going from being a starter to sharing the ball, I’m used to being the whole offense. My mindset has changed way differently this whole year as far as being the complete player, rooting for someone, cheering them on and things like that. Even though it wasn’t the best year as far as my stats, I think the growth in me is amazing now. So I just appreciate the Buccaneers for giving me a second change, guy like Tom Brady, [Rob Gronkowski], [Jason Pierre-Paul], a lot of older guys who took me under their wing and I’m just developing and learning and becoming a better player and a better young man while I’m here.”

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About the Author: Taylor Jenkins

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Naplesfan
7 months ago

Leonard Fournette is a very solid running back and a great teammate. I don’t get why some Bucs fans, and PR writers (I’m talking about you, Jon Ledyard!) take such a strong dislike to him. He is a very strong between the tackles runner who also has very good hands for catching the ball, unlike some of our other running backs (I’m talking about you, RoJo!). It is unfortunate for Fournette that he is on a team with a deep bench of running backs that also does not run the ball that often (347 rushes to 548 passes so far… Read more »

DerLutz
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 months ago

The Problem with Fournette is that he is average (running and receiving). You can get these players in every draft in round 4 or later, but Fournette was a Top 5 (?) Pick. So everybody expects more from him. Noone expects Highlight Plays from Players like Ogubowale, but you hope that he is above average in one category and then you use this ability

Pete Wood
Reply to  DerLutz
7 months ago

Bingo! You nailed it, DerLutz.

Naplesfan
Reply to  DerLutz
7 months ago

Concluding that Fournette is only “average” based upon yards per attempt is simply thoughtless and simplistic. YPA is a terrible measure of any running back’s contributions to the offense. His rookie season, Fournette gained 1040 yards and scored 9 TDs. That is way above average for any rookie running back, and in fact is way above average for any running back in the league, period. His second season he was injured and only played 8 games. His third season he again ran for over a thousand yards – 1,152 to be exact. He was in fact virtually the whole offense… Read more »

RW
RW
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 months ago

Fournette has a -32 expected yards on his rushing attempts this year and a -.35 expected yards per carry. that is poor.
RoJo has a + 204 expected rushing yards and a + 1.13 expected yards per attempt. That is very good.

RW
RW
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 months ago

I loved it when LF was signed but the reality is he has not played well this year. His Pro Football Focus rating is under 60% for the year which is below average for an NFL running back and the worst number among regulars on the Bucs offense. He’s been an adequate replacement while RoJo has been out but should not be a main contributor for the rest of the year. And he definitely should not be back next year.

Pete Wood
7 months ago

I like the guy. I just think his running style seems kinda limited. Need someone to barrel through on extremely short yardage, Leonard is your man. Need someone with good instincts who can see that hole in the defense, get through it and maximize yardage, um, when’s Rojo coming off the injured reserve? I think there is a spot for him on the Bucs roster next year, but Bucs are probably going to draft a RB who can catch in the early rounds. So, that means, at best, Fournette will be third on the depth chart. Probably fourth if that… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  Pete Wood
7 months ago

Fournett’s the only running back on the team with good hands, who can be relied upon to catch the ball in short to medium yard throws to a running back, as our GOAT quarterback loves to do. And getting tough yards in the middle is what running backs are most needed for. Mike Alstott made his living and got his name in the Ring of Honor for the Bucs by making exactly those kinds of yards. He was never light on his feet, nor an especially good receiver either.

Pete Wood
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 months ago

Two sides to every story. Well said, Naples Fan.
I still want a new running back in the draft, though.

ScottC543
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 months ago

Stop. Just stop. There’s no way in hell Fournette and Alstott should be mentioned in the same sentence. Period. Mike Alstott was a beast to bring down. His balance was incredible. He could be hit three or four times and still would find a way forward. And I think you must have forgotten all the times the A Train caught a pass in the flats and took it to the house. D backs would be looking for a place to hide when they saw him coming. I’m not a big stats guy. I don’t research numbers on players one bit.… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 months ago

You might want to check out Mike Alstott’s receiving statistics. As I recall he caught 65 passes one year.

RW
RW
Reply to  Pete Wood
7 months ago

PW – “but Bucs are probably going to draft a RB who can catch in the early rounds.”
Don’t be surprised if one of TB12’s ex Pats teammates sign with the Bucs. James White and Rex Burkhead both are running backs with great hands and are free agents after this year.
Next year the Bucs go with RoJo, Vaughn and a receiving back like White/ Burkhead.

surferdudes
7 months ago

I’m glad he’s embracing hid role. Like he had a choice.

TBChucky
7 months ago

I’m glad he’s on the team. Solid contributor. I figured he’d be more of a “change of pace” back, and be used to punish defense’s late in the game. The problem is with all the slow starts we’ve had, we’ve played from behind a lot, leading to more passing late. I am curious to see more of Vaughn moving forward. Kid seems to have some juice.

Spitfire
7 months ago

I don’t agree with people s**ting on Fournette either. He may not be lighting things up but he’s doing exactly what we brought him here to do, be a solid backup in case we needed him. When Jones has been hurt or benched he has come in and at least kept things going. I hope he gets what he needs out of being here as well as us benefitting from having his experience in the lineup. That said I’d like to see more of what Vaughn can do and to have Jones back in time for the playoffs (Playoffs?!) Also,… Read more »

Dman
7 months ago

Fournette was a one man wrecking crew at LSU. As an Auburn fan, hated going up against him and that’s when Auburn’s defense had a bunch of guys currently playing on Sunday’s. I was excited when we signed him, but he’s not the same player, does not run with the tenacity he had in college. Still all the talent in the world, just not the wanna’. Vaughn runs harder than he does. That’s why Jax gave up on him and we should let him walk end of this season.

scubog
Reply to  Dman
7 months ago

That’s what I’ve seen so far too Dman.

PatrioticChief
7 months ago

Fournette and Shady are both gone. James White and Rex Burkhead come on down!

twspin
7 months ago

Let’s put it this way…Some players find a fit on some teams to be difficult. Yet, they go on to others and shine on. Fournette is a good player. But he just is not either feeling the Bucs or he is in Arian’s doghouse. He won’t be here next season. But I look for him to rebound and be great with another NFL team. Happens all the time. Fournette is by no means done.

scubog
7 months ago

Loved the guy when he was at LSU. His lofty draft position is evidence that he displayed the varied skill-set necessary to be an NFL superstar. I didn’t pay much attention to his career in Jacksonville unless he somehow showed up on the highlights. One could assume that being on a lousy Jags team he would have difficulty being the “savior” expected. Apparently there were reasons the Jags showed a top 5 pick the exit in favor of an undrafted rookie. I was excited about the signing here and hopeful a change of scenery and a chance to start over… Read more »