JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In all of his years of football, Leonard Fournette had never experienced a season like 2019. The third-year Jacksonville Jaguars running back had questions about his durability for much of his early career, but now Fournette is sixty minutes of game time away from playing his first healthy 16-game NFL season.
Thanks to an improved focus on maintaining his body and an extensive offseason training regiment, Fournette has flipped the narrative on him as a player. With one game to go, he has hit career highs in rushing yards (1,152), yard per carry average (4.3), first downs ran for (55), runs of 20 yards or more (seven), receptions (76), and receiving yards (522).
The biggest reason for Fournette's improved production has been his ability to remain durable throughout the course of a season where he has touched the ball 341 times, a stark contrast from his past seasons.
“That was our goal going in. And we talked to him about it prior to making sure that he was ready, and he did a very good job of that," Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said this week about Fournette's ability to stay healthy. "And being able to sustain and be in the games and doing a better job in some areas, which he’s done actually an outstanding job in, so he’s done a really good job, I mean he really has.
"You talk about a position where durability always comes into question – I’m talking about the position in itself, and he has shown that he can sustain 16 games of a very tough style of running and has done a really good job coming out of the backfield for us with the passes."
In Fournette's rookie season in 2017, he missed one game due to an ankle sprain, one game due to a quad bruise, and one game due to being suspended by the team. He still turned in a positive season, rushing for 1,040 yards and scoring 10 total touchdowns.
2018 took a turn for the worse, however. Fournette played in only eight games due to a nagging hamstring injury and a one-game suspension handed down by the league after he engaged in a fight against the Buffalo Bills. It became the worst year of Fournette's Jacksonville tenure, and really his entire football life, in terms of both production and health.
That is why Fournette made working on his body a big focus heading into 2019. He trained in Wyoming in the offseason and made maintaining his health a goal for this season. 918 offensive snaps later it has paid off, seeing as how Fournette has yet to miss a game or an entire practice with injury this season.
Fournette said Thursday at TIAA Bank Field that he had two goals coming into this season: stay healthy and win the Super Bowl. The latter isn't happening (though he hopes it will eventually), but he has done more than accomplish the first one thus far.
"That is something I put on my list. No. 1 is just staying healthy the whole season, try to manage my body, and just be better than the last two years I played," Fournette said.
"I think all of the little things like that kind of played a big part into me having a successful season."