Rookie Four­nette sets phys­i­cal tone for Jags

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS -

By Mark Long JACK­SONVILLE, FLA. » The wildly in­con­sis­tent Jack­sonville Jaguars have one con­stant: Leonard Four­nette is get­ting the ball to start games.

The rookie has car­ried on the of­fense’s open­ing play each week this sea­son, run­ning be­tween the tack­les, low­er­ing his shoul­der pads and set­ting the tone for a team de­ter­mined to play smash­mouth foot­ball.

“Some­times it lets some­body know that it’s go­ing to be a long day ahead of them,” Four­nette said. “It sends a mes­sage not just to the de­fense, but to your O-line and of­fense, too. I think the phys­i­cal part of the game starts with the run­ning backs and the Oline.”

For the Jaguars (3-2), ev­ery­thing starts with Four­nette.

The for­mer LSU star leads the league in car­ries (109), ranks sec­ond in rush­ing yards (466) and has six touch­downs.

His phys­i­cal­ity is ev­i­dent, but he’s also shown enough speed to run away from NFL de­fend­ers and bet­ter-than-ex­pected hands. Vet­eran tight end Marcedes Lewis called Four­nette a mix of for­mer Jaguars run­ning backs Fred Tay­lor and Mau­rice Jones-Drew, flash­ing Tay­lor’s speed and JonesDrew’s power.

“Su­per phys­i­cal, can run away from you, will run you over,” Lewis said. “He might even wave at you, like, ‘Come on, you’re about to get this ac­tion.”’

Four­nette did just that last Sun­day at Pitts­burgh, when he ges­tured to­ward safety Mike Mitchell be­fore slam­ming into him to end a 12-yard gain in the fourth quar­ter of the 30-9 rout.

Four­nette added a 90yard dash in the clos­ing min­utes that gave him a ca­reer-high 181 yards and two scores.

“He sets the whole tone for the whole team, and that’s what we need,” guard. A.J. Cann said. “I don’t get to watch him much be­cause I’m block­ing. But when he does pass the line of scrim­mage and I end up be­hind him, see­ing lit­tle moves or see­ing him run some­body over, it’s im­pres­sive and it’s a joy to watch.”

The Jaguars lead the NFL in rush­ing, av­er­ag­ing 165.2 yards a game.

That old-school, throw­back style was ex­actly what coach Doug Mar­rone and top ex­ec­u­tive Tom Cough­lin wanted when they started piec­ing the team to­gether in Jan­uary. They drafted Four­nette with the fourth over­all pick, added left tackle Cam Robin­son in the sec­ond round and held one of the tough­est train­ing camps pos­si­ble in this day and age.

“It’s in­fec­tious,” Lewis said. “It’s all about com­pet­ing, and we’ve es­tab­lished an en­vi­ron­ment where we com­pete here and we chal­lenge each other . ... We’re one of the clos­est teams I’ve been around and we’re all go­ing in the same direc­tion.”

So far, the direc­tion has been one step for­ward and one step back. Jack­sonville hasn’t won con­sec­u­tive games in a year and has only ac­com­plished the feat twice in the last four sea­sons.

The Jaguars will try to end their up-and-down ways Sun­day against the Los An­ge­les Rams (3-2).

And there’s a good chance Four­nette will get the first carry — and set the tone.

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