Just as soon as running back Leonard Fournette cleared waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers swooped in and grabbed him. One of the biggest knocks of the 2020 Bucs in the offseason was the lack of grabbing a high-value running back from free agency to compete with Ronald Jones II. Todd Gurley went to division rival Atlanta Falcons. Melvin Gordon going to the Denver Broncos. The Buccaneers had no interest in Falcons’ castoff in Devonta Freeman.
How Leonard Fournette Changes the Buccaneers
The Buccaneers ended up using two draft picks to address the running back position this year. The first was Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round. The second was Lafayette’s Raymond Calais in the seventh. Dare Ogunbowale remained the other holdover back on the roster. Calais and Ogunbowale have been waived since and could be back if they clear waivers. No one in the backfield is a proven pass-catchers until the team signed 32-year old LeSean McCoy. Now with Fournette joining the fold, it means few things. First, Vaughn and Calais aren’t progressing anywhere near head coach Bruce Arians’ expectations. Second, it gives the Buccaneers a three-headed monster for defenses to respect the run. Third, it gives Brady two viable pass-catching threats from the backfield with Fournette and McCoy. Keep in mind the last time the Buccaneers had a 1,000 yard running back was in 2015, now they have two.
Despite Fournette’s falling out with Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, he still had his most productive season in 2019. The former first-rounder ran for career-high 1,152 yards. His production in the red zone did in fact plummet, but he became a far greater threat catching from the backfield. Fournette caught a record 76 balls for 522 yards as a favored target of quarterback Gardner Minshew II.