Leonard Fournette may actually make life more difficult for the Buccaneers on the ground in 2021.
For just one moment, let’s forget what Leonard Fournette did in the playoffs for the Buccaneers. Fournette may have played like one of the best Buccaneer backs in franchise history during those four games, but you have to look beyond that to get the full story for the 2020 season.
Fournette was a huge free agent signing by the Bucs last season, but he never lived up to billing in the regular season. With a measly 3.8 yards per carry and a few too many drops when it mattered most, Fournette was extremely fortunate to have the playoff run that he put together.
Without those four games and a clever nickname, the former first-round pick would have been in a very different position at the end of the season.
Fournette is still a good back with a future in the NFL, but his presence in Tampa currently muddies the water more than it should, and he may steal reps away from players that need them more.
The front office for the Bucs currently has no clue what the running back room will look like in a year. Ronald Jones is a great runner, but will he ever be able to put it together as a receiver? Only time will tell at this point, and the Buccaneers don’t get any closer to figuring out what Jones can do while he is on the bench.
Jones is the one player still in his ‘dire evaluation’ window, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard need their reps too. Bernard is one of the best pass-catchers on the whole team and already flashed some talent in this role in the first preseason game, and Vaughn has the talent to emerge as the second-best runner on the team with enough reps.
Fournette is definitely the most complete back on the Bucs right now, but his usage actively pulls from other players that are better receivers and runners.
The Buccaneers had no choice but to re-sign Leonard Fournette to keep their run game intact, but in reality, the unit may look its best when he isn’t on the field if current trends continue.
Regardless, running back is an area where an embarrassment of riches isn’t a bad thing, and hopefully, Playoff Lenny will get his chance to shine again in the postseason as the Bucs look for ring number two, regardless of his role in the regular season.
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