Leonard Fournette is the perfect player for the Jaguars offense

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Leonard Fournette was one of the most feared running backs in college football for years at LSU. His combination of raw power and athleticism is unmatched and made him a top prospect in last springs draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected him fourth overall in order to fix their awful run game, and have to put together a more balanced offense that will put less on the shoulders of the often maligned Blake Bortles.

Fournette had a breakout game Sunday in his fifth NFL appearance as the Jaguars upset the Pittsburgh Steelers. The running back carried the ball 28 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 6.46 yards per carry.

Those numbers are unusual for a power back, but Fournette did manage them in the Jaguars power run game. Half of his 28 carries were right up the middle, and he averaged 3.36 yards on each of those runs.

Direction L End L Tackle L Guard Middle R Guard R Tackle R End
Attempts 0 3 5 14 1 3 1
Yards 0 93 19 47 1 7 12
YPC 0 31 3.8 3.36 1 2.33 12
Adjusted 1.5

The Adjusted left tackle YPC removes his 90 yard run at the end of the fourth quarter as it heavily skews his numbers

 

His runs up the middle came from more than just pounding it up the gut, though. He still manages to use his surprising agility when surrounded by defenders and can break upfield for extra yards.

Pittsburgh runs a stunt on this play. Their linebackers cross each other while an edge rusher comes across to plug up the gap in the middle. The Jaguars fullback takes care of the first man, but the second man coming on the stunt has a free run at Fournette as he comes out of the backfield. Fournette somehow manages to swerve his large frame around and entirely dodge the defender. He quickly cuts to the open room on his left and scampers for a few extra yards. He did not gain much on the play, but his ability to escape what should have been a play that didn’t gain anything and turn it into a few yards helps keep the offense on schedule.

Fournette’s work up the middle did not only include impressive plays in the trenches. His first touchdown of the day was a show of true athleticism.

The Jaguars, the Steelers, the fans in the stadium and everyone at home knew the Jaguars were going to go right up the middle with their rookie running back from the two yard line. Pittsburgh collapsed inside and probably would have done a great job shutting off Fournette. It was all for naught though as Fournette just chose to jump over everyone.

As the game went on the Jaguars continuously pounded the Steelers defense inside. Fournette just kept on punching them in the gut over and over and it took its toll over time. The third quarter was disastrous for the Steelers offense and it allowed the Jaguars to slow the game to a halt.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw back to back interceptions for touchdowns in what was a close two point game early on. Jacksonville got way ahead at put the game on ice. Their opening drive of the fourth quarter took eight minutes off the clock. They ran the ball 13 times, eight times with Fournette, and did not pass the ball once. They drove from within their own 10 yard line into field goal range on the other end and put the game out of reach.

Bortles was a mere bystander for much of the Jaguars second half. He did not throw a single pass in the fourth quarter, and only dropped back to pass twice in the third (one incompletion, one sack). He only threw 14 passes all game.

The Jaguars continuous rushing up the middle affected the Steelers defensive play calling. They began to crash nearly everyone inside leaving them vulnerable to counters or just any runs to the outside.

On this rush towards the beginning of that earlier mentioned marathon of a drive, he gets to the second level with ease on a counter.

Jacksonville pulls their tight end across the formation to seal the left side for their running back. The Pittsburgh defense was caught entirely off guard. They all head towards the center, and end up biting on the counter towards the right. Fournette waltzes into the second level after a quick cut in the backfield. At the second level, he makes an impressive hesitation move to force a defender to overrun his tackle then heads upfield for a few more yards.

Fournette is a smart runner. He knows his limits and has the vision and patience necessary to find holes even when they may not quite exist yet. The rookie can beat you in the trenches with his overwhelming strength and in the open field with his deceptive speed and agility.

On this late rush, he bounces a run to the outside after nothing opens up in front of him.

This run looks like it was initially supposed to be off of the right guard. Pittsburgh quickly collapses, and Fournette’s cut back lane is plugged by a defender. He bolts towards the outside but there is still one unblocked man he has to beat off of the edge. His speed allows him to get a step on the Steelers linebacker, and an impressive stiff arm puts him on the ground. Fournette is now on the second level and in the open field. In one of the wildest decisions I have ever seen a player make during a live NFL play he waves on an incoming tackler. He leans into the oncoming defensive back as they collide into each other. The players hop up and exchange words, but Fournette definitely won this exchange.

The Steelers defense could have done better against Fournette all game, but they actually did a decent job Sunday especially without any help from their offense. They finally broke late in the fourth though, and Fournette ran for what will probably be the longest run of his career.

With only two minutes to play and having dealt with Fournette all day everyone knew this ball was being handed off to the rookie. The Steelers loaded all 11 of their defenders in the box and felt fully prepared for the obvious play call. After seeing so many runs up the middle all day the defenders all were way to quick to go with their first instinct. They crashed inside hard. Fournette takes his run outside, beats a man at the line and takes off for a 90 yard rumble and a game ending touchdown. The Steelers defense was beaten and broken and Fournette had his breakout moment.

Jacksonville has an amazing defense. Jalen Ramsey is already one of the best defensive backs in the NFL and they have the ability to entirely shut down some offenses. An ideal game for the Jaguars will be a low scoring slugfest, where the Jags defense can hold the opposing offense in check while playing time of possession on the other side. Fournette can tire out any defense, and the less Bortles has to throw the ball the better.

Not every game will play into their hand as much as Sunday’s, but Fournette may be the perfect centerpiece of this Jaguars roster.

 

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Blake Bortles was so bad Thursday he might lose his job

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns

Mansur Shaheen

Blake Bortles is not having the best summer.

Between terrible days at camp, apparent frustration from teammates regarding his play and lackluster showings during the Jacksonville Jaguars two preseason game the former 3rd overall pick may lose his starting job soon.

Head coach Doug Marrone hinted at a potential quarterback controversy brewing in North Florida after his team’s week 2 preseason loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This opens the possibility that Bortles may be replaced with Chad Henne, a quarterback who has only thrown 58 career touchdowns compared to his 63 career interceptions.

Many see this season as Bortles last chance to prove himself as a valuable NFL quarterback after another abysmal 2016 campaign. He is a very athletic player with a strong arm, but he makes mental errors and his accuracy is downright awful.

He displayed these issues Thursday night.

The Jaguars first offensive possession ended on a terrible overthrow from Bortles.

Allen Robinson had outside leverage downfield. After scanning the left side of the field and not finding anyone, Bortles turns left and immediately hurls it towards Robinson. The ball sails on him, though, and falls harmlessly for an incompletion.

The pass was placed terribly. Robinson did not have much separation from his man, but was in position to make a play on a pass towards the sideline. A back-shoulder throw, or anything just behind him and towards the sideline would allow Robinson a chance at the ball. Instead he sails it to high over the top for a pass that could have led to an interception if the safety was quicker reaching the spot.

Bortles would later overthrow Robinson of third down again, and this time put his receiver in danger.

Robinson runs an in route that ends up just short of the first down. He is clearly the primary target on the play, and Bortles stares him down the entirety of his route. This allows the Bucs deep corner and middle linebacker, who were both in zone coverage, to quickly converge on Robinson. If Bortles does not stare down his man, they would be a bit slower getting to him and Robinson would have a chance to make a catch and run for a first down. Instead, they both quickly collapse on Robinson as the ball reaches him. The pass is a little high and Robinson exposes himself going up to grab it. He comes down with it and fortunately did not get sandwiched between to oncoming defenders and take a hard hit. The pass was completed, yes, but Bortles terrible decision making and pocket presence ruined what could have been a great play.

The previous play, which put the Jags in third and long in the first place was another example of Bortles staring down his receiver, tipping the opposing linebackers to what he plans on doing.

This play could have been a quick four yard pick up to Mercedes Lewis to open the playbook a little more for third down. Bortles again zeroed in on his man, and despite a well timed pass had the play broken up by the Bucs middle linebacker.

Bortles watches Lewis on the entire curl route, while the linebacker watched Bortles. Right as the tight end begins to turn the defender realized what is happening, and quickly positions himself to get his around his man and break up the pass.

Bortles only seemed to get worse as the game went on.

The Jaguars quarterback seems to over correct on his issues overthrowing receivers in the first quarter by under throwing them in the second. The play above was arguably his worst pass of the game.

He has a clean pocket, and Robinson has a few steps on his man. Bortles stares down Robinson the entire way, but he even gets away with it as the safety was not anywhere near being in place to break up the pass. The ball is criminally under thrown, though, and an already torched DB almost gets a hand on the pass before it hits the receiver in the knee.

Bortles seemed entirely lost before throwing another awful pass later in the second quarter.

He drops back to pass, then seems to fake a hand off behind him as is he is going for a quarterback draw. There is absolutely no one standing behind him that he is faking to, as running back T.J. Yeldon has already headed out on his route. He then stares down Robinson once again and under throws a pass so badly that a linebacker 10 yards up field from the receiver nearly breaks it up. The ball lands a yard in front of Robinson and the play is wasted.

Robinson’s knees had more targets than anyone Thursday night and managed to draw a pass interference penalty on third down earlier that drive.

Bortles drops back to pass and stares down Robinson yet again. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is playing extremely close coverage on the receiver but Bortles decides to throw it that direction anyways despite having time in the pocket to go through his progressions. Robinson is forced to dive on the ground the grab it and gets tangled up with Hargreaves.

The pass falls innocently to the ground but Hargreaves is called for a questionable DPI to extend the drive.

There are fundamental issues in the way Blake Bortles plays quarterback that need to be addressed for him to ever be successful in the NFL. He rarely goes through his progressions and just stares down, and eventually throws too, his first option. Even when he does have an open man, he is terrible at placing the ball correctly.

He may have more time to correct these issues then many Jaguars fans would like to admit. Chad Henne is really bad, and Colin Kaepernick is the only free agent quarterback available worth looking at. As much as it pains me to say it, Kaepernick will most likely not see the field in 2017 due to non-football reasons. So Bortles is most likely safe for at least the first few weeks of the season, but don’t be surprised if he does not finish the season under center in Jacksonville.

 

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Jalen Ramsey is good, though

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With a Worlds Worth of Expectations on Him, Jalen Ramsey Delivered in his Rookie Year

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Jalen Ramsey was the highest rated player in the 2016 draft class. Some draft boards had him as high as the top pick in the draft during the weeks preceding the draft. He was chosen fifth overall by the Jaguars, and was the third non-quarterback selected behind the Ohio State duo Ezekiel Elliot and Joey Bosa.

A good shut down corner can be a game changer in the NFL. The ability to shut down an entire side of the field, or island a team’s top receiver, can render a passing attack near useless. Recent contracts given to the likes of Josh Norman and Darius Slay last offseason prove that teams around the league are valuing the position even more.

So on a struggling Jaguars team, Ramsey smashing through the “rookie wall” in his first year can prove to be huge for the team’s future.

Ramsey was the Jaguars CB1 this year, and saw a lot of time matched up against some of the better receivers in the league. Despite his inexperience, he matched up well with the likes of Emanuel Sanders, Steve Smith and Deandre Hopkins.

What made Ramsey so good? His raw strength and athleticism.

The rookie first caught the attention of the league during a chippy game against the Baltimore Ravens, the team he would most likely have been drafted by if the Jaguars did not take him. He and Ravens receiver Steve Smith had heated words for each other during post game interviews, but his on field play also deserves attention.

Late in the game Jalen Ramsey created a huge interception for a teammate.

https://gfycat.com/MilkyBlushingFurseal

Ramsey drops back into zone coverage initially, then trails Dennis Pitta (#88) as he passes through his zone. Flacco throws an awful pass way behind Pitta. Ramsey quickly closes down and makes a huge leap to tip the ball towards Tashaun Gipson for a pick.

From this angle you can see just how amazing of a play Ramsey makes to tip that ball. He shows off his speed and athleticism just by chasing down the pass to make a play, but even more important is his field vision and ability to be in the right place at the right time. He realized he was in a dead zone, and followed Pitta deeper down the field, and was fortunate enough to have the chance to take advantage of a bad pass.

He showed off his closing speed early on during the second quarter against the Denver Broncos.

Receiver Emanuel Sanders (#10) manages to slip through the Jaguars cover 3 zone coverage, and manages to get behind the defense when Jags Safety Johnathon Cyprien (#37) begins to tread forward towards Demarius Thomas (#88).

Ramsey comes from the same zone he occupied on the play against the Ravens, and crosses the field to catch up to Sanders. Broncos QB Paxton Lynch underthrows his target, allowing Ramsey nearly force an interception, but again Ramsey shows off his closing speed, play making ability and awareness of what is happening all over the field.

His speed and awareness give him the ability to cover multiple zones if needed, which is crucial for a team like the Jaguars who love playing in cover three.

During the first quarter against the Titans he nearly intercepts a pass meant for fellow rookie Tajae Sharp (#19).

Sharp starts the play lined up across Ramsey, but runs a crossing route out of his zone. Ramsey falls away for a second, but as the play breaks down and Titans QB Marcus Mariota escapes the pocket, Jaguars linebackers abandon their assignments to chase and cover shallower targets. Ramsey realizes this and sprints across the field. Mariota throws to Sharp, who was open for a few seconds, and Ramsey nearly comes up with an interception.

The overhead angle shows just how much ground Ramsey covered while the ball was in the air, and how close he came to taking it the other way.

Ramsey’s ability to read the field and overall closing speed also make him an asset on shallower passes as well.

On this play earlier during the Ravens game, Ramsey initially drops back into coverage before quickly making a play up field.

He instantly reads the out route coming out of the backfield, and sees Joe Flacco going that way. He breaks off his man and lays a mean hit on the Ravens back stopping the play for minimal gain.

Ramsey made a similar play against the Titans as well.

On this play, Ramsey begins to drop back into his regular zone for a cover three play, but see’s Kendall Wright (#13) run an out route into the flat. Ramsey rushes forward and manages to land a hard hit on Wright to knock the ball free for an incompletion.

Jalen Ramsey does not only make plays in zone coverage, though.

Week 15 saw Ramsey line up across the Texans Deandre Hopkins for much of the game. Hopkins is one of the NFLs better receivers, and this game proved to be one of Ramseys biggest tests.

Hopkins had a good day, catching 8 passes for 87 yards, but was targeted 17 times. That leads to total of only 5.12 yards per target for Hopkins, one of his lower totals on the year. Hopkins was shadowed by Ramsey for much of the game, and both were tested.

Ramsey gives Hopkins a big cushion to work with on this play, but again shows his closing speed and manages to force an incompletion on a shallow pass.

Before the snap Hopkins shifts from wide out into the slot. Ramsey shifts behind his fellow defender, and steps a few yards back. If not for an inaccurate pass from Brock Osweiler, Hopkins may have made the catch. Ramsey, though, managed to close in and lay a hit on him to send him flying out of bounds for an incompletion.

On a fourth and goal play earlier in the same game, Ramsey lined up right at the line of scrimmage across Hopkins.

They both begin to shove each other off the snap, and Hopkins runs a corner route into the end zone. The ball is not perfectly delivered, and Ramsey makes an athletic play to deflect the ball away, giving the ball back to the Jaguars.

Ramsey is still not a the perfect corner, he sometimes can get lost in between zones and many of the big plays that he does make happen to be against some of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks (Osweiler, Flacco, Lynch). He struggles sometimes in man coverage, but he can be trusted to secure his side of the field in a cover three look. When the Jaguars met the Cheifs this year he had quarterback Nick Foles (who belongs on the same list as the others) scared to even look his way, and was only targeted twice all game. He has the speed and athleticism to make plays on the ball, the strength to land hard hits on receivers to dislodge the ball and he has the ability to not only cover his own zone but to shift across field if he see’s a man about to run free.

After the combine we knew how athletic Ramsey was. He was among the top ranked prospects in every physical category which led to him flying up draft boards. His raw talent has translated well into the league so far, and as he get more used to the faster and more complex play in the NFL, he should only get better.

The Jaguars, despite consistently finding themselves towards the bottom of the NFL standings, have a very talented roster. They have a lot of young pieces who have showed individual flashes of talent but have been unable to find the consistency to put it all together. 2016 was supposed to be their break out season, and they ended up having one of the NFL’s worst records. They still show promise, though, and entering 2017 they yet again will find themselves as a dark horse to steal the AFC South. As players like Ramsey, Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and many others gain more experience as a group, the entire team should only get better.

 

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