JACKSONVILLE – Leonard Fournette feels good entering Year 2.
There are multiple reasons the Jaguars’ second-year running back said that’s the case, not the least of which is that he is experiencing what many second-year NFL players experience:
A game that looks much different than the one he saw as a rookie.
“It’s a lot slower than my first year,” the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft said Thursday afternoon after the Jaguars’ 20th practice of 2018 Training Camp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex. “Once you really get that one year under your belt, everything slows down each and every year.
“It’s just like college, coming in as a freshman. It seems fast with everything coming at you. In the second year, it slows down completely. Just the game and the speed helps you.”
Fournette, who rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie, spoke to the media for several minutes Thursday afternoon as the Jaguars prepared to play the Atlanta Falcons at TIAA Bank Field in 2018’s third preseason game Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Me, personally, I feel I’m good where I’m at right now,” said Fournette, who has rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown on 13 preseason carries with two receptions for 17 yards. “I’ve learned the system from top to bottom. I’m just ready to go out there and compete once more for my team and show the world.”
Saturday’s game likely will be the final playing time for Fournette and many Jaguars starters before the regular-season opener against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on September 9. It also could be the starters’ most extensive work of the preseason, with teams often using Preseason Week 3 as a dress rehearsal and playing starters into the early part of the third quarter.
Fournette was asked if he was looking forward to an extended look.
He smiled at the question.
“I’m trying to score and get out,” Fournette said, drawing laughter from the surrounding media. “I’m not going to lie; that’s the best I’ve got for you. I’m just trying to get in, get a rhythm with the team in the first quarter. I just want to get the rhythm going early until I get out.”
Fournette played deep into the second quarter in a Preseason Week 2 victory at Minnesota last Saturday. One reason was the Jaguars were trying to get Fournette repetitions on third downs after he played relatively sparingly in passing situations last season.
“I’ve made a lot [of progress], especially learning the blocking schemes and knowing who I’ve got – and communicating with [quarterback] Blake [Bortles] and the O-line (offensive line) from a protection standpoint,” Fournette said. “I’m gotten a lot better.”
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday Fournette is doing a “good job” improving on third downs.
“It’s a little bit different on third down, schematically what we do,” Marrone said. “He’s just getting himself comfortable with that.”
Fournette said he feels he’s “way better” as a blocker this season and drew more laughter from the media Thursday when asked about a block he had last week on Vikings safety Harrison Smith on a screen pass to reserve running back T.J. Yeldon.
“I’m not going to lie: I tried to take him out,” Fournette said with a smile. “I tried, but T.J. got the first down and that’s all that matters.”