Foot US – NFL – Leonard Fournette, the ground asset of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For its fifth regular season game, Tampa Bay welcomes Miami this Sunday (7:00 p.m., live on L’Équipe), after two complicated games against the Rams (34-24 loss) and the Patriots (19-17 victory). Tom Brady will be able to count on his running-back Leonard Fournette, who is playing his second season with the Florida franchise.

Terror in Jacksonville, model in Tampa
Leonard Fournette arrived in Tampa Bay in 2020 with the “big character” tag hanging securely on his shoulder pad. Brawler on the field, not very serious outside and sometimes detached from the life of the team, he had managed in 2018 to attract the wrath of the vice-president of his Jaguars franchise, Tom Coughlin, the day after a match passed on the bench, obviously not very interested in the show. «  He was disrespectful and selfish, said the leader. His behavior is not worthy of a professional football player. « 

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Finally cut by Jacksonville in 2020, then convinced by Tom Brady to join the Buccaneers, Fournette had then returned the favor, striking in his usual provocative style: «  For the first time in my life I really have a quarterback « . Despite the punchlines, the arrival in Tampa Bay marked a turning point in the career of the 26-year-old runningback from Louisiana.

Assigned from the start to a replacement role, the fourth in the 2017 draft had to change his mindset –  » gain in humility »- to ultimately change its image.  » I really had a bad reputation in Jacksonville, he admitted to ESPN last August. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was not the bad guy they were describing. My character was the major problem. “No more delays in training and naps in the middle of a meeting, Leonard Fournette has chosen to fall into line.

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« Lombardi Lenny »
Within a franchise that aims for a second consecutive NFL title, Leonard Fournette is the ideal runner, able to sublimate in the play-offs to switch decisive matches. After bringing the Vince Lombardi trophy to Tampa in 2021, Fournette was thus nicknamed « Lombardi Lenny », in reference to his impressive play-off campaign (4 touchdowns in four matches), and his impeccable Super Bowl (89 yards running, 46 receiving, 1TD).

But these performances also hide another reality, much less brilliant. Last year, at the end of the regular season, the Buccaneers were in 28th place in the standings for total distance on the ground, with 1,519 yards, far behind the Ravens and their 3,071 yards. If this statistic is to be put in perspective with the penchant of Tampa Bay for the aerial game (2nd record of the league in 2020), perfectly led by Tom Brady, it also illustrates the difficulties of Florida running-backs outside the play-offs .

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This season, Fournette, who already has 184 yards in the race after four games, is ahead of his statistics from last season: in 2020, after 12 regular season matches, he had completed only 367 yards. This development is to the credit of a change in status. The complicated start to the season for his running-back counterpart Ronald Jones II gave him a starting place in the last two weeks. To settle permanently in the starting team, and to pass a course to Tampa on the ground, “Lombardi Lenny” would be well inspired to convert into “Regular Season Lenny”.

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