As the Jaguars prepare to attack to the Patriots defense Sunday, there will be no mystery as to what they want to do early and often: pound the ball with Leonard Fournette.
After all, Fournette ran for 1,040 yards and nine TDs in his 13 games played in the regular season. And with his combination of power between the tackles and speed, he’s the best offensive weapon Jacksonville has.
Now, we know that he left last week’s Divisional Round upset of the Steelers late in the first half with a recurrence of his ankle problems. However, he did return and even scored a big fourth quarter TD. He finished with 109 yards on 25 carries in the upset.
Still, the ankle has limited him, again in practice this week and we’ll see if he can play at close to full speed Sunday afternoon.
How big of a key is it for Fournette to get off to a good start in the first half? Here are the numbers that back up his success.
Adding the two playoff games to his totals from during the year, Fournette has now run for 422 yards in the first quarter alone, and averaged 5.3 yards a carry. That’s his best ypc average (by at least a yard) in any of the four quarters all year.
Last week in Pittsburgh, he carried it eight times for 51 yards (6.4 avg) and had two of the scores. The Jags led 14-0 and never looked back.
In terms of the first half, including the two playoff games?
Fournette now has 643 yards on 149 carries and a 4.6 yard average before intermission. That includes six of his 12 total touchdowns, too.
Therefore, it’s obvious that offensive coordinator Nate Hackett wants to get him rolling early. But, especially now, in a high pressure game, on the road, with the Patriots crowd roaring.
Last week, with Hackett dialing up plays and QB Blake Bortles engineering, the Jaguars stuffed the ball down Pittsburgh’s throat for an eight play 66 yard drive to begin the game. Then, Fournette leaped up and over from the two on fourth down and goal and a 7-0 lead and the crowd was silenced right away.
The Jaguars would love a similar scenario Sunday on their opening drive.
This isn’t to say Fournette hasn’t been really good in the fourth quarter also. Again, his combined regular and post season fourth quarter rushing stats are 64 carries 311 yards (4.9 avg) and four TDs.
And obviously, a lot of that success was Jacksonville playing with the lead for a lot of those fourth quarters on their way to a 10-4 start this season.
Still, keep an eye on #27 in white tomorrow early in the game. If he’s running it well, the chances for the Jaguars pulling a shocker go way up.
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