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Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette And Why Yards Per Carry Is A Flawed Statistic

Zach Goodall

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Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) runs the ball against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

As the offseason has worn on and folks have gone back to analyze how players and teams performed during the 2017 season, Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has become the center of a hot topic: How well did Fournette play in his rookie year, and based on his first season, was he worth the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft?

The latter half of the question, no matter what your opinion is on the value of running backs, is irrelevant until further into Fournette’s career. It’s unreasonable to claim whether he was, or wasn’t, worth the pick until it’s clear how much of an impact he had on the team’s performance during his time in Jacksonville.

The former, however, can certainly be debated. Fournette wasn’t perfect (is any rookie ever perfect?), but he did well in his role in the team’s new power-running offensive identity, rushing for 1040 yards and 9 TDs, and recording 36 catches for 302 yards and a receiving touchdown in 13 games.

However, when looking at raw numbers, doubters tend to immediately call out his 3.9 yards average per carry. That ranked 27th among NFL running backs with 100+ carries. On the surface, that number isn’t ideal.

But the thing about football is that you can never just take a number at face value and run with it, and that’s what’s happening when Leonard Fournette’s yards per carry statistic is mentioned. There’s a ton of missing context.

Utilizing the always-resourceful FootballOutsiders.com, I found some in-depth numbers that give us a better perspective as to how the Jaguars tried to run the ball, and where they found success and failure doing so.

Football Outsiders tracked each one of Jacksonville’s 464 carries, and found that 64% of runs went through the interior offensive line. Compare that to the next highest spot along the OL: 11% to the left outside. Granted, not all 464 carries belonged to Fournette, but considering only one other direction got into double digit percentages, one thing remains clear: Jacksonville is an inside power run team, and Fournette 268 carries in 13 games makes him the bell-cow.

How successful was Fournette and Co. when running inside? Not very. Football Outsiders uses a stat called adjusted line yards (which is an incredibly interesting stat that you can learn about here) to determine offensive line value in running the football, and Jacksonville ranked 22nd in that statistic when running inside (4.01 ALY per carry). When running to the left end, left tackle, right tackle and right end, the Jaguars averaged 4.32 ALY/carry (13th), 4.34 ALY/carry (14th), 4.31 ALY/carry (7th), and 4.36 ALY/carry (10th), respectively.

Oh, and let’s not forget box-stacking against Fournette, which naturally has a negative effect on inside-the-tackle-box runs. Per Mitchell Renz of ChatSports.com, Fournette faced 8+ defenders in the tackle box on 49% of carries. That led the NFL by 6%, as Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard faced 8+ defenders in the box on 43% of his carries.

Despite all of these stats clearly showing the interior offensive line was a problem for the Jaguars rushing attack, Leonard Fournette had flashes of excellence that can be built upon as the line improves. According to PlayerProfiler.com, Fournette had 74 evaded tackles, which ranked 10th in the NFL despite the back missing three games. During the season, it was noticeable how often Fournette would be hit in the backfield by defenders, especially against stacked boxes, and yet he still found ways to get away from tackles, as seen by his evaded tackle count.

On top of evaded tackles, Fournette ranked 7th in yards created by PlayerProfiler.com’s research, gaining 420 yards after evading a tackle on any run play.

Perhaps the most important stat at PlayerProfiler.com when analyzing Fournette’s game, however, is his efficiency vs. a stacked front (5+ defenders along the line of scrimmage). When facing stacked fronts, which he saw on 16.8% of carries (3rd highest in the NFL), Fournette averaged 3.6 yards per carry, which ranked 13th amongst all running backs. These numbers help confirm that Fournette was an effective runner against stacked boxes.

Did Fournette have a superstar-esque rookie year? I wouldn’t say so, but the in-depth numbers suggest that Fournette had a much better rookie season than he’s given credit for from non-Jaguars fans. It’s easy to conclude that the interior offensive line was an issue that hindered Fournette’s performance and yards per carry, and the Jaguars seems to agree: They signed left guard Andrew Norwell to the biggest interior offensive line contract in NFL history this past March, as well as drafted NC State OL Will Richardson to potentially compete at right guard his rookie year before eventually sliding over to right tackle.

With an improved interior offensive line and the continuity of Jacksonville identifying as a power-run offense, Leonard Fournette is poised to build upon the in-depth numbers and his rookie success to break out as one of the league’s best running backs in 2018.

Zach Goodall covers the Jacksonville Jaguars on the Locked On Jaguars Podcast and on BigCatCountry.com. Follow him on Twitter @zach_goodall.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Thick2stick

    May 23, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    My question now is, how many times was first contact at and behind the LOS?

  2. EG

    May 28, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    That would be interesting to see what percentage of time first contact came behind the LOS. Great work, as usual.

  3. InTomWeTrust

    May 30, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    I prefer to look at YAC yards..

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Patriots Week Two Inactives: Fournette Out, Campbell Starts

Demetrius Harvey

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Aug 18, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) reacts during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots have released their inactive lists for the game today.  For the Jaguars star running back, Leonard Fournette is out today with a hamstring injury. However, Calais Campbell who was added late to the injury report with a knee injury is expected to start today.

There was speculation before the game that Campbell could be out. It is possible the Jaguars limit his snaps this week.

Jaguars running back TJ Yeldon will start ahead of Fournette. Corey Grant will also look to get in on the fun after only having one touch last week against the Giants.

JAGUARS INACTIVE REPORT

One surprise on the Jaguars inactive list is rookie linebacker, Leon Jacobs. Although he was injured this week with the ankle injury, he was thought to have been progressing. Look for linebacker Larentee McCray to take his place at SAM linebacker.

 

PATRIOTS INACTIVE REPORT

 

For the Patriots they are without their starting right tackle in Marcus Cannon. They also get back their starting running back in Rex Burkhead as well as their first-round pick, rookie running back Sony Michel.

 

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars Promote Running Back Brandon Wilds, Release WR Rashad Greene

Demetrius Harvey

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Aug 30, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back runs the ball Brandon Wilds (38) in the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

According to Mark Long of the Associated Press, the Jacksonville Jaguars today have promoted Running Back Brandon Wilds from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. As a corresponding move, the Jaguars have released veteran Wide Receiver Rashad Greene Sr.

This move should not come as too much of a surprise as starting running back Leonard Fournette has been nursing an injured hamstring all week, and TJ Yeldon was added to the injury report yesterday with an ankle injury.

The move might indicate that either Fournette will not be playing in tomorrows matchup against the New England Patriots, or Wilds will simply be insurance in case the star running back goes down again. Either way, it is something to keep an eye on as the Jaguars announce their inactive report around 90 minutes prior to kickoff tomorrow.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Patriots: Friday Injury Reports, Fournette Questionable

Demetrius Harvey

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Aug 9, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) takes a handoff from quarterback Blake Bortles (5) during the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots have officially released their Friday game status injury reports ahead of their week two matchup in Jacksonville, Florida. For the Jaguars coming into this game against the Patriots, all eyes have been on star running back Leonard Fournette as he nurses a hamstring injury. Today, the Jaguars officially listed him as questionable. Fournette has not been able to practice the entire week and will have to prove to the Jaguars training staff as well as the coaching staff he is good to go.

If Fournette is not cleared look for TJ Yeldon to take over as the Jaguars starting running back this weekend. It is also likely the Jaguars would elevate running back Brandon Wilds from the practice squad as they currently only have two running backs besides Fournette on the 53-man roster. Corey Grant would also more than likely receive his bulk of the carries in the event Fournette cannot go.

As for the rest of the Jaguars players, the only player who was a late addition to the Jaguars injury report was running back TJ Yeldon. He, however, will play this Sunday as that injury has seemingly been deemed minor.

Below are the Jaguars and Patriots official gameday statuses:

JAGUARS:

 

PATRIOTS:

QUESTIONABLE
RB Rex Burkhead – Concussion (Limited participant)
T Marcus Cannon – Calf (Limited participant)
DB Keion Crossen – Hamstring (Limited participant)
RB Sony Michel – Knee (Limited participant)

For the Patriots their most notable players on the injury report are running backs Burkhead and Michel along with tackle Marcus Cannon. Burkhead being out this week against the Jaguars for the Patriots is notable due to the lack of weapons at the running back position. If Burkhead and Michel cannot go the Patriots will likely lean on running back James White for the bulk of the carries. I would, however, anticipate at least one of the two running backs to be active this Sunday.

If Marcus Cannon is out this week, then the Patriots will turn to LaAdrian Waddle at the right tackle position. Waddle is a journeyman and more than likely would struggle against the Jaguars front four.

For the Jaguars as well as the Patriots both teams are relatively healthy. The areas to watch will continue to be the running back positions and how the Jaguars, as well as the Patriots, handle the situation. With Fournette as a true game-time decision, keep a close eye on the Jaguars inactive report 90 minutes before kickoff this Sunday.

 

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