Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette is under fire for refusing to run where he should on a football field, which is reminding NFL Twitter of another former first-round draft bust at the position in Trent Richardson.
Fournette was already under fire for dropping no fewer than three passes from quarterback Tom Brady during the Buccaneers’ 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football, and this bit of news certainly won’t help his cause for more playing time, or for being in the good graces of Tampa Bay fans.
Leonard Fournette and Trent Richardson: United in poor NFL field vision
Our little meme here does well to describe the situation and comparison between Fournette and Richardson, as the latter averaged 3.3 yards per carry for his three-year NFL career after being selected third overall in 2012 draft by the Cleveland Browns:
Here’s the initial short video clip of Fournette’s film of apparent blindness on the gridiron from Pro Football Focus analyst Zoltan Bunday:
That’s pretty ugly. It appears as though Fournette could’ve gotten far more yards on that carry had he followed his blocks properly. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-off incident, but rather a discouraging trend that should have Bucs fans worried about whether they can complement aging quarterback Tom Brady with a decent rushing attack.
Here’s another cringe-inducing Fournette footage frame, courtesy of NFL analyst Jon Ledyard:
Fournette is unfortunately on a similar career arc to Richardson, who began promisingly enough in Cleveland with 11 rushing touchdowns as a rookie. However, he played in just two games the following season before being traded to Indianapolis for a first-round pick. After a woefully unproductive stint with the Colts, Richardson never touched the ball in a regular-season game again.
In the case of Fournette, he went fourth overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017 and was a key contributor on that year’s team that reached the AFC Championship Game. Alas, he unceremoniously forced his way out of Jacksonville, and after all the drops Fournette had as a pass-catcher on Monday night, it’s becoming clearer that he’s not a valuable receiving threat out of the backfield like Richardson at least was for a short time.
Best Twitter reaction to Leonard Fournette and Trent Richardson trend
Here’s some more “greatest hits” from the Twitterverse regarding the unflattering comparisons Fournette is drawing — and it’s probably not lifting Richardson’s spirits much, wherever he is these days.
Leonard Fournette and Buccaneers’ playoff outlook
While Ronald Jones clearly looms as the featured back in Tampa Bay, any help Brady and the offense can get from Fournette would be welcomed with open arms. Veteran LeSean McCoy is more of a pass-catching specialist at the position, but until he’s available to play, it’ll be up to Fournette to pick up the slack.
Although he is capable of picking up blitzes in pass protection, Fournette is miscast as a third-down back at the moment. He’s the type of runner who needs to get into a rhythm with multiple carries. The way the Bucs are built on offense with so many weapons in the passing game like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and others, though, it’s unlikely coach Bruce Arians will deploy a seismic shift in offensive philosophy.
But something has to change in Tampa Bay. Whether it’s Arians scaling back on downfield passing and catering more to Brady’s strength of short, precision-based throws, or simply pounding the rock more often with some blend of Jones and Fournette, the Bucs are fighting for playoff position at 7-4 entering Week 12.
Is Fournette a potential answer as he continues to integrate into this Tampa Bay offense, which is being built on the fly with many moving parts and frequent lineup changes? Or is he destined to end up as an unmitigated draft bust like Richardson at a position that, frankly, is the most replaceable of any in the NFL?
Bring on the fiery Fournette fodder. It just adds another juicy, buzz-worthy subplot to this chaotic Bucs team as they try to figure out their chemistry well enough in time for a deep playoff run and potential Super Bowl push.