It has been anything but an easy journey for Leonard Fournette. The star running back from LSU was drafted in 2017 in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars (fourth overall). Despite becoming the second rookie in franchise history to rush for more than 1,000 yards, Fournette’s stint with the Jaguars was ultimately short-lived. After being waived only three seasons in by arguably one of the worst teams in the NFL, Fournette was picked up via free agency by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dubbed “Playoff Lenny” and “Lombardi Lenny” in last year’s postseason due to his dominating playoff campaign, Fournette has picked up right where he left off and he shows no signs of slowing down.
This past Sunday on the road against the Indianapolis Colts, Fournette had the best game of his NFL career. The 6-foot, 228-pound back played lights out, scoring four of the Buccaneers’ five touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) and had 100 yards on 17 carries. Tampa Bay was in a bit of a rut after losing two games in a row. Fournette single-handedly led Tampa Bay back from a 24-14 deficit at halftime to a smashing 38-31 comeback victory, his fourth touchdown being a 28-yard carry with 20 seconds left in the game. His performance earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
While Fournette’s performance on the field was critical and displayed his relentless character, it was his demeanor off the field and in the locker room that helped to motivate the team to continue fighting.
Still five games away from the end of the regular season, Fournette has surpassed his stats from last year by a wide margin. To compare, in 2020, the LSU alum only had 97 attempts for 367 yards and 3.8 average yards per carry. Heading into Week 13, Fournette boasts 139 carries for 621 yards and a significantly improved 4.5 average yards per carry.
At the beginning of this season, Fournette was re-signed to a one-year, up to $4 million contract. Fournette’s contract solidified that all 22 starters who played in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl LV win would return. With the way that Fournette has continued to grow and improve within the offense, he could earn himself a big-time contract come the end of the season and become a staple within the Buccaneers’ offense for years to come.
Fournette will look to build upon his standout performance as the Buccaneers look to take on the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday. Having the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, on the Buccaneers made the team more likely to depend on the passing game. However, with Fournette’s performance, the Buccaneers had more first downs by rushing than passing (13 rushing and 11 passing) last week. Fournette adds another dimension to the Buccaneers’ offense, which makes them even more serious Super Bowl contenders as they look to go back-to-back.