When the Jacksonville Jaguars selected running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft last spring, it was with the intention of making him the centerpiece of a power-rushing attack that would be the focal point of their offense.
Inherent in their strategy was the hope that by leaning more on a strong running game, the Jaguars would become less reliant on the play of quarterback Blake Bortles and would therefore rise or fall on something other than just Bortles’ play.
Well, a quarter of the way through the season, the Jaguars (2-2) still pretty much go as Bortles goes.
As ESPN’s Mike DiRocco pointed out this week, Bortles has been solid to say the least in the two victories the Jaguars have posted so far, completing 59.6-percent of his passes for 369 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks.
In the Jaguars two losses, though, Bortles has been a different player. He’s completed only 50.7-percent of his passes in those games and while the yardage total – 363 yards – is similar he’s taken three sacks, committed four turnovers, including three interceptions, and thrown only two touchdown passes.
Of course, that’s pretty much Bortles in a nutshell. Now on the verge of making his 50th NFL start, he is still as erratic as a quarterback can seemingly be, and the fact the Jaguars have all but done what they intended to do with Fournette hasn’t helped change that.
Granted, the Jaguars still haven’t figured out exactly how best to use Fournette. But they have succeeded in developing the strong rushing attack they hoped they would with him because they’ll go into their Week 5 game against Pittsburgh on Sunday ranked second overall in the league in rushing.
Despite the fact they’re facing a lot of eight-man boxes (per ESPN, 48 of their carries – the most in the league – have come against eight-man fronts), the Jaguars are averaging 148.8 yards per game rushing and a solid 4.3 yards per carry, 13th best in the league.
Numbers like that suggest the Jaguars are on the right track and that all they need is a quarterback who can play efficiently alongside that rushing attack. Bortles does that on occasion and when he does the Jaguars rise. When he doesn’t, though, they still fall.