Bucs give troubled Fournette another chance

by Gary Shelton on September 3, 2020

in general

Arians has seen growth in Jones./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Do you believe in second chances? Do you believe in reclaimed freight?

The Tampa Bay Bucs, who have already added huge names to their offense, have reached an agreement in principal with former Jacksonville Jags running back Leonard Fournette.

Fournette, 25, was released by the Jags despite having two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in three years (in his other season, his second, Fournette played in only half the games).

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He is yet another running back who coach Bruce Arians hopes can juice his running game. The team signed free agent Shady McCoy and drafted Ke'shawn Vaughn in the third round of the draft. Third-year back Ronald Jones II is the incumbent starter.

Fournette, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, never was a fit with Jacksonville. He was suspended once by the Jags and deactivated for another game as a rookie, and there were whispers that his behavior left a lot to be desired. Coach Doug Marrone said his release was strictly related to what he had seen on the practice field.

Wrote Florida Times-Union columnist Gene Frenette when the Jags released Fournette:

"We’re talking about a running back who had 1,674 yards (1,152 rushing) from scrimmage last year, who was a No. 4 overall draft pick, and is only 25-years-old. When does that kind of scenario ever happen? That part makes no sense.

"Still, it’s no secret Fournette has too often been a pain for the front office and the coaches’ backside during his three-year employment. Fournette coming off the bench to fight the Buffalo Bills’ Shaq Lawson in 2018 was an epic knucklehead move. And let’s not discount that getting rid of him is more evidence the Jaguars want Tom Coughlin’s fingerprints off this franchise."

For the Bucs, however, this is a no-risk move. They get a productive back who can be released at no cost if he acts up. If coach Bruce Arians can find his proper role, he should find a productive role.

Arians talked about a variety of subjects Wednesday. For instance:

-- On his belief there will indeed be an NFL season" "If you asked me in June, I would’ve said there’s no way. But, if you ask me now, I don’t see any reason why not. It’s just a matter of the commitment of everybody that’s in Tier 1 and Tier 2 to stay safe and don’t bring it into the building. It’s a big transition weekend. Guys are getting cut, people are moving into apartments, they’re finding new places to live – guys that make the team – so this will be a huge, huge weekend for that.”

— On the growth of running back Ronald Jones: “ I think the biggest thing is in the passing game. He’s really, really improved his hands. He had one bad day where he dropped the ball, and then he fixed it. It’s all concentration. His blitz pickup has been good – he’s worked on his pass protection and he looks like he can be an all-around back.”

— On Shaq Barrett’s pass-rushing skills: He learned a lot from those guys (his teammates in Denver) – he’s got a huge tool box. He’s got more than two or three [pass-rush moves]. Shaq is very, very slippery [and] he knows it. He uses it every day – he tries new stuff all the time. He’s been great work for Tristan Wirfs and that’s been a great battle to watch that over there. Shaq – he’s legit.”

— On newly signed kicker Ryan Succop, who is competing with Matt Gay: “He kicked well yesterday. I gave both of them (Succop and Matt Gay) off today to get them ready for tomorrow in the stadium. He’s got a 12 or 13-year resume, so it’s just seeing if he’s healthy, watch the competition and see how it goes.”

— On if he has a cornerback who can shadow a big-time receiver: “I think Carlton (Davis) stepped up at the end of the season last year. He had DeAndre Hopkins, he had Michael Thomas, he had Julio (Jones) – each guy is so different and we game-plan them all differently, but he shadowed those guys some and I thought he held his own more than not.”

— On remembering the legacy of former Buc Lee Roy Selmon: “I think it’s huge. Those are the guys that laid all the foundation. I never met him, but I had total respect knowing him as a player [and] watching him as a player. He was one of the best of all time. You have highways and stuff named after you – that’s pretty damn good. It’s important to remember that.”

— On the possibility tackling will suffer this season: I think it’s going to be a shock to some people. There is no doubt. You hate hitting each other, but you had to do it this year to get some tackling in because it’s a blocking and tackling game. I know everybody likes to see the ball in the air, but somebody’s got to block for that to happen and somebody’s got to tackle. Missing those preseason games – really, the preseason practices, also. We were set up with Jacksonville and Tennessee that we missed out on, so they got tired of hitting each other. You go against the same guy every day, you kind of know all his moves, so it gets old real fast. To do it for three weeks is tough.”

— On how much he hates cut-down day: “Worst day of the year – it always is. You’re watching guys livelihoods. With the extended practice squad this year you give some more guys hope, but it’s hard. They’re putting everything they have into it and sometimes you’re cutting the guy that gives you more [effort] than everybody else, but he’s just not quite as talented. Those are the hardest.”

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