Thus far during Jags training camp, the former No. 4 overall pick has received rave reviews from the local beat writers, including during this week’s joint practice with the Baltimore Ravens.
Fournette appears to have gotten the message that this is a make-or-break season.
“I came back in better shape, and my mind was good without distractions,” Fournette said Tuesday, via The Florida Times Union. “I had to change my mindset coming into camp, trying to grasp everything and push my body. I also pushed my brain in thinking more.”
Fournette likely won’t participate much, if at all, in Thursday’s preseason tilt versus the Ravens, but said the work the Jags put in in practices with Baltimore proved Jacksonville could hang with playoff-caliber teams.
“I felt like it was cool,” Fournette said. “We got great effort. It was not just from me, but we got it from the entire team. We all competed against a playoff-caliber team. I feel good leaving here.”
Aside from being a more efficient runner between the tackles this season, the Jags appear ready to deploy Fournette in the passing attack more in 2019.
“Every single day, he’s catching balls in practice,” quarterback Nick Foles said. “You’re always reading concepts and everything, but sometimes the matchups on the running back versus a linebacker, or if you go through your progression and they cover it really well, you can check it down to a back like him, and he can make a play. So he’s a special back when you give him the ball.”
Last season, Fournette caught 22 passes — 43rd most among running backs, per Next Gen Stats — for 185 yards and one TD. For his career, the RB has 58 receptions. He’s always flashed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but in previous Jags offenses wasn’t given that many opportunities. This year, with Foles at QB, the plan is to change that.
“He’s someone that we can use in the pass game, and he has the skill,” Marrone said. “I’ve said it from the beginning. People have asked me, ‘What’s the one thing about Leonard?’ This is two years ago that that stood out, and it was his pass-catching ability.”
The hope is with Foles now under center, Fournette healthy, in shape, and focused on not flushing his career down the drain, the Jags’ running back will get plenty of opportunities to carry the load this season. With question marks at the Jaguars‘ receiver spot, Foles could wind up locating this RB a lot in the pass attack in 2019.
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