Does signing Leonard Fournette make the Bucs Super Bowl Favorites?

  • Bucs
  • Leonard Fournette
  • NFL
  • Super Bowl
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Tom Brady
By JT September 3, 2020 0 Comment
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On Wednesday evening, the news broke that former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette would be signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fournette was surprisingly cut Monday morning with two years left on his rookie contract after being the number four overall pick in 2017. After clearing waivers Tuesday, he seemed to have many interested teams looking to bring him in before the Bucs inevitably signed him.

Fournette now joins a Buccaneers offense that is loaded with talent. So much talent that it leads some to question if there is enough football to go around and if the team even needed to make this move. In short, no they didn’t need to make it. However, the Fournette signing may make the Bucs Super Bowl favorites.

What does Fournette bring to the table?

Fournette is a big powerful runner. At at 6’0 and 230 lbs he is someone who can run through arm tackles and often requires multiple defenders to bring him down. He is very much like former Bucs starting running back Peyton Barber in terms of build and physicality, although Fournette is actually bigger than Barber is listed.

However, unlike Barber, Fournette brings an element of speed. While not a burner by any means, Fournette has the juice to get around the corner and run to the outside. He’s also shown the big play ability. His 81 yard touchdown run was the 5th longest in the NFL last season and he has also had a 90 yard touchdown run in his young career. That kind of speed combined with his size is a big part of why he was 7th in rushing yards last season at 1152.

While his size and speed are very valuable as a runner, it will be as a pass catcher where Fournette is likely to make his biggest impact. Last season he 76 passes for 522 yards. He ranked 25th in receptions in 2019; above star receivers like Odell Beckham Jr, Cortland Sutton, Kenny Golladay and yes, even Mike Evans. He is a true three down back due to his dependable hands and the fact that he is a better pass blocker than what the Bucs already have. This should bring a smile to the faces of both Bruce Arians and Tom Brady.

How does Fournette fit?

It is unclear if Fournette will be the starter for the Bucs in 2020. While there are certainly many things to like about his game, incumbent Ronald Jones could still very well lead this team in carries. They way these two complement each other’s skill set actually makes them a perfect pair as a running back tandem.

Jones is more explosive than Fournette and will likely be a guy who finds more success running to the outside, so it is likely he still gets plenty of carries. Whereas Fournette projects better pounding the ball between the tackles and getting the tough yards. Jones is more of a big play threat in the passing game, while Fournette is a better blocker with better hands. Truly, each is strong where the other isn’t.

What does this mean in terms of workload? Jones will still likely be the main running back between the 20 yard lines. However, Fournette will probably get more touches in the redzone, short yardage situation and on passing downs. I would also expect Fournette to be the ball carrier in late game situations due to his size and ball security (averaging only one fumble per year). Look for a pretty even split in terms of overall touches and yard.

What does this signing mean for the Bucs?

The Bucs ranked 24th in rushing yards last season primarily splitting carries between Barber and Jones. Fournette had nearly as many rushing yards as both combined (1,194 to 1,152). Now the Bucs essentially replace Barber with Fournette, giving the Bucs new backfield pairing with a combine total of 1,876 rushing yards in 2019. This would have ranked as the 14th hgihest team rushing total in the NFL last year. Obviously, this move will improve the Bucs overall running attack.

It’s also an additional dimension the Bucs can hurt a defense that they didn’t have prior to this move. A pairing of Jones, listed at 207 lbs, and LeSean McCoy, listed at 210 lbs and at 32 years old, didn’t bring a tough physical presence between the tackles. With Fournette, the Bucs can pound the rock and wear down a defense in a way only a 230 lbs battering ram can.

With this addition, the Bucs improved one of their weakest positions on a team that was already one of the favorites to win the NFC. Fournette helps take pressure off a 43 year old quarterback, both literally and figuratively, and makes Tampa Bay perhaps the most talented and balanced offense in the NFL. It is fair to say that this move could make the Bucs not only favorites to win the NFC, but to win the super bowl.

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