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Leonard Fournette picked a perfect time to make his presence felt

No RoJo, No Problem!

Wild Card Round - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Football Team
Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette ran for 93 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s Wild Card Playoff round against the Washington Football Team.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’ve been super critical of Leonard Fournette’s presence on the field during the regular season. I kept saying that the coaches were not giving the better back, the more effective back, more opportunities to go out and make plays. Ronald Jones II is undoubtedly, and likely still is, the best rushing option the Buccaneers have.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Saturday’s Wild Card round gave us a lot to reflect on regarding how the Buccaneers season has unfolded. Aside from the struggles in pass protection and pass coverage, the blend of pass and rush has remained a question mark for me and many others. When will Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich figure out a consistent blend of pass and rush with this offense?

Even Mark Schlereth of FOX Sports said during the Bucs vs. Lions broadcast. In summary he said, ‘they have to remain a balanced team. In order to do that, they need to find a balance of pass and rush if they plan on going very far in the playoffs.’

They’ve shown us little hints at their power rush when “RoJo” ran for over 100 yards 3 weeks in a row in weeks four, five, and six. However, I think they need to take an even harder look at everything that went right for them in week four when Brady put up 369 yards, and Jones also put up 111 yards on the ground. That’s the type of blend they need.

Wild Card Round - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Why couldn’t the Bucs replicate that performance every week? Totally understandable the game plan is going to shift week to week, but the inconsistency was apparent as they headed in to the back half of the season, which certainly raised concerns.

Table 1A

What you should be able to glean from the table is that Fournette is more of the pass catching and situational back, and Jones is the better overall running back. What stands out to me are the Yards After Contact (YAC) and the Yards Per Carry (YPC). Jones clearly dominates in those categories.

So, despite my Ronald Jones gloating, I witnessed something on Saturday night that I didn’t think I would ever see again. Fournette not only ran the ball the entire game, but he was effective the entire time. He looked somewhat like Fournette of old. Here’s his stat line vs. Washington:

  • 19 carries
  • 93 yards (17 longest)
  • 4.9 yards per carry (ypc)
  • 1 Touchdown
  • 4 receptions / 4 targets (100%)
  • 39 yards (22 longest)
  • 9.75 yards per receptions (ypr)

Compared to Brady’s 381 yards and two touchdowns in the air, I’d say that’s an impressive blend of pass and rush.

Jones was listed earlier this week on the Bucs injury report, but he’s been a full participant. He remained active, but sat out due to the quad injury being re-aggravated during pregame warm ups. Fournette got the call and lit up the field almost immediately.

NFL: JAN 09 NFC Wild Card - Buccaneers at Washington Football Team

We saw him make a double spin move on one of his first runs for a long gain. Finding gaps and running downhill like he used to in his prime with the Jaguars. I mean, I’m not going to go as far to compare, but I think we can all agree that he looked darn good against a top rated defensive line. He was the running back we all hoped we would end up being, and it was on full display at the right time.

If RoJo doesn’t go in the divisional round, we better see more of what we saw last week. Let’s hope Fournette can continue the success he started last week, even if sharing snaps with Jones. Either way, I’m still banking on Jones coming back to take on their nemesis, the New Orleans Saints in prime time on Sunday.