“The Bench Is Beckoning”

November 11th, 2022

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On any list of concerns heading into the 2022 Buc season, Leonard Fournette wouldn’t have cracked the Top 10.

Now, he’s inching up toward No. 1.

Problem Lenny?

Fournette is the indisputable poster child for the NFL’s most wretched ground game and his dramatic slide has been startling. Since opening with a 127-yard effort that sparked a Week 1 victory at Dallas, Fournette’s numbers on the ground have been abysmal.

Perhaps the bulk of the blame rests with an offensive line still trying to assimilate three new starters across the interior.

Perhaps Byron Leftwich isn’t calling the right plays at the right time.

Perhaps opposing defenders are stacking eight in the box more often.

Whatever the reason, the Bucs can’t run and Fournette can’t hide.

A year after averaging 4.5 yards per carry in a potent attack, Fournette’s 3.3 average ranks among the league’s bottom feeders. How bad has it been? Only 10 players have more rushing attempts, yet 26 players have more rushing yards.

Fournette is frustrated with his lack of production and, quite frankly, some in the organization are frustrated with his effort.

Instead of running with determination and decisiveness, Fournette hasn’t taken advantage of holes that are carved open. Through nine games, he has broken only four tackles on rushing attempts.

Fournette continues to be a dependable target for Tom Brady, credited with breaking 10 tackles as a receiver. His 15-yard reception last week on third-and-20, deftly juking a Rams defender, set up Ryan Succop’s critical 50-yard FG in the fourth quarter.

But Fournette is supposed to make his living as a running back. At the age of 27, he should be in his prime. The Bucs kept him out of free agency in March by offering a 3-year, $21 million deal, with $12 million guaranteed.

Now you have to wonder whether Fournette will survive the post-Brady era in Tampa. He bristled during the Rams game when rookie Rachaad White took Fournette’s place for a series, but Fournette isn’t giving an embattled Leftwich much of a reason to believe.

Plummeting Numbers

With two touchdowns and a long gain of only 17 yards in 121 carries, Fournette has shown no evidence he can break through past the first level. He’s the only player in the league with at least 110 carries still looking for his first 20-yard run.

Fournette supporters can point out that White’s average of 3.1 yards per carry is even worse. That’s true, but Fournette is the established player who teammates and coaches counted on to spearhead a robust ground game.

Instead, Tampa Bay ranks last in rushing attempts, yards and average yards per carry.

And it’s getting worse. In the past three weeks, Fournette has carried 26 times for 62 yards.

If he’s injured, sit him down and give White and Ke’Shawn Vaughn more opportunities. If Fournette’s healthy and he’s struggling to this extent … that’s even more concerning.

No defense is going to respect play-action when you haven’t established a credible ground game. I’m not buying any suggestion opponents are stacking the box. Why would they? The Bucs throw on two-thirds of their snaps and the run game stinks.

The Glazers and Todd Bowles can’t be happy with Fournette’s plodding ways. He’s not the same runner and a seat on the bench is beckoning.

He’s running out of time to generate trust.

If he mucks it up in Munich, Playoff Lenny could quickly become Forgotten Lenny.

Ira loves that lifetime warranty on new and used vehicles!

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42 Responses to ““The Bench Is Beckoning””

  1. Kentucky Buc Says:

    None of the running backs having success indicates the problem lies elsewhere. Predictability and poor blocking are the main culprits. Lenny has missed some holes but the holes are few and far in between . A lot of penetration into the backfield from defenders on run plays. Just way too predictable.

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    No defense is going to respect play-action when you haven’t established a credible ground game.

    You’d have to prove that to me……teams are expecting the run…..especially on 1st down and we are handing it to them.

    Teams will play the run until we burn them on play action……give it a try, Byron…..you moron!!!

  3. Winky Says:

    Pouting is not team behavior.

  4. SufferingSince76 Says:

    So they should sit Lenny, but make no other changes? I must have missed all of the holes the line opened for him.

  5. Pelbuc Says:

    Putrid Oline + Horrendous coaching + lack of character= worse rushing in the league. Fournette, like most Bucs players don’t handle adversity very well. And Bowles has contributed to all of the above.

  6. Chuckstutz Says:

    Great point. Great article!

  7. Kentucky Buc Says:

    The Bucs throw on 2/3 of their snaps. Yep and everyone knows it’s coming just like when they run. Horrible takes Irv with zero substance. I still think it’s Bowles wanting this #runfornone scheme.

  8. D-Rome Says:

    Perhaps the bulk of the blame rests with an offensive line still trying to assimilate three new starters across the interior.

    Perhaps Byron Leftwich isn’t calling the right plays at the right time.

    Perhaps opposing defenders are stacking eight in the box more often.

    I think Fournette’s drop off has more to do with this and far less to do with his attitude or ability. People were saying the same things about him when he was on his way out in Jacksonville. Last year he was a Top 5 back in the NFL. It’s the defenses, then the line, then the coaching. Fournette is missing Marpet, Jensen, Cappa, and Gronk blocking.

  9. Goatfarmer Says:

    Bowelswich are bMorons.

  10. LakelandSteve Says:

    Granted the O-line hasn’t been up to last years standards but that doesn’t mean they are not able to get the run game going. You can’t blame Lenny’s lack of production just on the line. There have been several times Lenny either misses the hole or doesn’t take the three yard gain, looking for the big play. When the statement was made the reason for the Bucs lackadaisical play was “some guys got paid”. Lenny was one of them and is not playing up to his contract. This is a production business and he isn’t producing. So if things go south this year don’t be surprised if Lenny is not a Buc next year.

  11. Leighroy Says:

    “Fournette supporters can point out that White’s average of 3.1 yards per carry is even worse. That’s true, but Fournette is the established player who teammates and coaches counted on to spearhead a robust ground game.”

    Coaches also counted on Mason to replace Cappa’s production, Goedeke to not be a 2nd round bust, Smith to not hold on running plays once if not twice a game, Jensen to not be on IR for the whole year and Whirfs to maintain his all-pro form. Arguably none of those things have happened and yet this article glosses over this fact with but a passing comment.

    I think it’s real easy to blame the RB for lack of production because the stat is tied to the name. But that’d be blaming the tail for wagging the dog.

  12. bucsfan951 Says:

    as soon as lenny starts stutter stepping in the backfield, its all over. he is way more effective when he runs straight and makes a move while going forward. its too bad if he is pouting.

  13. catcard202 Says:

    Loved getting Lenny on prove it deal, after being cut by JAX….But HATED WITH A PASSION the 3yr/$21M deal the FO gave him.

    I do not believe in big contract $$ for RB’s, especially when Bucs OFF is 70-30 pass heavy…To me, it does not make good financial sense to invest in a “proven” RB, unless your a run-1st team (Like TN) that’s signing a man beast like D.Henry…Lenny is no Henry.

  14. BillyBucco Says:

    He stutter steps and lowers his body to protect his legs.
    There are almost always a couple more yards if he cuts instead.

    He takes on LBs and DBs instead of trying to go around them.
    Give White 20 carries in a full game and he breaks 100 yds and a TD.

    It’s sickening.
    Andy Reid went to Hunt early in his 1st year.
    Fournette is getting paid, and Leftwich is saving Lichts bacon.

  15. Dooley Says:

    We’re not benching our 3rd leading pass catcher, and Rachaad White getting more snaps doesn’t equate to Lenny being benched. Fournettes’ struggled in the run game, part of it is play calling, part of it is Lenny being hesistant, and just like Bradys’ apparent discomfort behind the same OL in passpro and I wouldn’t doubt Lenny not being 100% confident on getting a push from the interior OL on a consistent basis.

  16. Beej Says:

    I think Lenny’s issue is similar to Brady’s. He has lost trust and the line, and now second guesses everything he’s looking at, when prior he didn’t think about it at all and just went through. Watched him pass by a perfect hole Sunday where the right guard doubled up and shoved The D tackle to the left, there was a hole right there that he could have gotten a few yards, instead he continued on out beyond The tackle got dropped at the line of scrimmage

  17. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    It’s all on the Oline. We went from one of the best to one of the worst. Don’t blame Lenny for that.

  18. Mike Johnson Says:

    Bucs start the season with 3 new guys on the O line. Gone are the anchors and stalwarts who held this line together. And it shows brightly every game. Bucs had 2 great years from Brady. rally all you want. Brady’s reign is slowly coming to an end. Its going to take this O line an entire season to jell. A Superbowl run is out of the question. So please, don’t get your hopes up to high. If we can get to 500. Maybe, and that’s not definite, we possibly might make the playoffs. But even this is a longshot.

  19. SB Says:

    OLine Coaching all of these excuses. BS!

    Rookie Dameon Peirce is Pounding the rock on a 1-6-1 team coached by none other than…………Lovie Smith.

    Talent and attitude is the Issue!

  20. Cliff Says:

    Can’t blame the offensive line or running backs – every time the Bucs call a running play it’s up the centre…need to mix the run, go off tackle & sweep wide ! ! – opposition defence is stacking the centre every run play. I still don’t understand why Brady is not calling offensive plays – more experienced then any coordinator !

  21. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira … ‘The Glazers and Todd Bowles can’t be happy with Fournette’s plodding ways. He’s not the same runner and a seat on the bench is beckoning.’

    Sounds to me like JBFers are a lot more open-minded about what’s going on with our running game than you were Ira. I used to think that it all starts upfront with the OLine. It doesn’t; it starts with play design & play-calling. Ours stinks. THEN the OLine’s run blocking comes into play. We’ve stunk there also. THEN the RBs vision & running skills come into play. Lenny’s not been running with the same ‘authority’ this year that he did last season. Maybe it’s a trust factor; maybe not. Maybe it’s an attitude factor; maybe not.

    Bottom line sits in this season’s stats: our running game sucks. Blaming any part of that on opposing defenses doing their job doesn’t cut it. Good run design & pre-snap adjustments, to include opting out of the run, can compensate for that. Our offense hasn’t been doing that successfully. So maybe the bottom line is really that EVERYONE is at fault when you’re faltering.

  22. Dooley Says:


    Lovie Smith was the last Bucs HC to have an offense to rank in the top 10 in attempts and yardage running the ball, lol outside of that the Texans stink and don’t have anywhere near the potential this Bucs rosters has even with the injuries.

  23. Rand Says:

    Is it Fournette? Or is it this season’s offensive line? The last several seasons Leonard has done yeoman’s work as the #1 back so why would this season be any different? Maybe it’s the o-line, duh.

    You ask, then why does White out perform Fournette in average yards per carry?

    My answer, it’s because Fournette starts the game against a fresh defense, so by the time they bring White in with fresh legs the defense has been softened up a bit. Start White and I bet his average will slide down closer to Fournette’s average.

  24. SB Says:

    @ Dooley. That was my point, the Texans OLine is worse than ours and SO is their coaching. Yet they have a Rookie potentially on the ROY path running the ball.

  25. gotbbucs Says:

    O-linemen will lay it all on the line if they feel like there’s a running back behind them that will do the same. Self-Preservation Lenny doesn’t fit the criteria, never has.
    Just because Fournette was effective last year doesn’t mean he’s anything more than an average running back. He gets the yards that are provided for him and usually not an inch more. When the going gets tough his legs stop fighting. He gives up on damn near every attempt that results in resistance.

    Ronald Jones was the type of runner that linemen are willing to block to the whistle for. Fournette gives up on contact so why push the envelope as a blocker?

  26. gotbbucs Says:

    @ Rand

    Find me the runs where Fournette is softening up the defense. They dont exist.
    Defenses don’t have to work to tackle Fournette. Hell, usually everyone is still standing on their feet at the end of a Fournette run because the defenders just hold him up because they know he isn’t going to fight for yards. It’s almost like he makes an agreement with them before the game to take it easy on him.
    Fournette will live a long pain free life after football, and that’s been by design since he signed his first NFL contract. He will not put himself in harms way.

  27. DoooshLaRue Says:

    The problems as I see it:
    1) Play calling
    2) OL
    3) Lenny

  28. Tony1775 Says:

    Lenny got criticism showing up to OTAs overweight. He looked well paid and fed. Signed his deal, and looks to have dropped his pack.

  29. Defense Rules Says:

    gotbbucs … ‘Defenses don’t have to work to tackle Fournette.’

    Lenny doesn’t even come close to Scotty when it comes to self-preservation. Scotty’s usually on his way down BEFORE the QB even throws the ball.

  30. Nick2 Says:

    BA benched hin and gave him a take it or eave the team talk. Bowles is afraid to deal with Veterans and there is now a total lack of accountability. You deal with poor performance in either private or public. Bowles does neither and defends Goedekes awful start and Devin Whites loafing.. Nobodies cracking the whip. If Warren Sapp has to call you out to get production something is very very wrong in the Head Coaches office. If Bowkes doesn’t get tough with Lenny we are screwed!!!!! Please Ira ask him why Lenny’s getting more touches when his performance is awful??? Leftwich has lied about splitting reasons ut HASNT happened! Get White the damn ball please!!!!!!!

  31. Kentucky Buc Says:

    DR. You can add Evans in there too. Catch and hit the ground. I love ME but dam I’m tired of these receivers not even attempting to get any YAC

  32. westernbuc Says:

    The interior of the line sucks. Start White because of his speed and bring Lenny in as the hammer that breaks defenses down.

  33. Your Mom Says:

    There’s an interesting hidden statistic here… if Fournette ranks 10th in rushing attempts but the Bucs rank 32nd in rushing attempts, then other teams are not concentrating nearly as much on using a single player as the Bucs rushing attack is.

    By mixing it up with multiple backs, which other teams MUST be doing based on 10th v. 32nd, it is much more effective than the Bucs approach.

    Perhaps a capable offensive coordinator or capable head coach would notice such things before a season is half over.

  34. Zippy Says:

    There are some excellent insights as to our running game problem. So, here’s my look.
    1. You lose 2 Pro Bowlers (Jensen, Marpet.)
    2. No veterans to fill in.
    3. Line can pass block, but there’s no effective push to create running lanes.
    4. We run it up the middle almost every time on first down. 1-2 yards anda cloud of nothing.

    Perhaps our current center and left guard are furure stars. Haven’t shown that yet.

    1. Put Brady iin shotgun with White or Lenny on first down. Gives us another potential receiver.
    2. Short to Medium Pass on first down (I know, what an original idea)
    4. 2nd down —(expecting a run, right/) another pass.
    5. If no first down pass or run (jet sweep).

    Use the pass to open up run lanes on early downs. Bring in an extra OL to run wide. If the defense isn’t sure what’s coming, you’ve got a much better chance of winning at the line of scrimmage.

    Personally, I can’t put this all on Lenny. He’s not getting room. Barry Sanders was the only running back I ever saw who didn’t need that.

    BL needs to adjust strategy. This isn’t the offense of 2020 or 2021. So, we can’t run it like it was.

  35. gotbbucs Says:

    Defense Rules

    Scotty weighs 170 lbs soaking wet. It’s a real life or death decision for him every time he puts on pads and steps on the field.

  36. Bobby M. Says:

    He got paid….that’s all you need to know. He got his guaranteed money and now he’s going through the motions.

  37. CChead Says:

    Run out of a 3 and 4 receiver sets. Mix it up FFS. Simple. Teams know when we run, its out of the 2 and 3 tight end sets.

  38. Defense Rules Says:

    gotbbucs … ‘Scotty weighs 170 lbs soaking wet. It’s a real life or death decision for him every time he puts on pads and steps on the field.’

    First off I thought we were told that Scotty had bulked up this off-season. Beyond that though, it’s not a ‘life or death decision’ every time he steps on the field. WR is his chosen profession.

    Warrick Dunn was only 5’9″ & weighed 180 lbs (probably close to what Scotty weighs now). Dunn carried the rock over 2500 times for over 15,000 combined yards rushing & receiving over a period of 12 years. Missed a total of 11 games in those 12 years, and I still remember Warrick scrapping for every single one of those 15,000 years.

  39. GumboIsForWinners Says:

    We have other problems but only breaking 4 tackles is a big giant red flag. Like a first date planning your wedding red flag.

  40. Buccos Says:

    Lasagna Lenny Rides the Pine. It sounds like a Spaghetti Western. Good job in the off-season there big boy

  41. Destinjohnny Says:

    Falls at the feet of our gm
    It’s a talent issue

  42. orlbucfan Says:

    Why can’t both White and Lenny start behind Brady on 1st down? They can both run and catch. And blow up that ridiculous lateral looking throw to Godwin. That’s a pick6 waiting to happen, and Brady should know it. Plus, it will get Godwin killed. We have 3 new OLine players. They have to jell, and that takes time. That one rookie, Levitt, looks like a good one. Cade Otton lining up as a TE receiver is another rookie weapon. Defense will be in good shape even with Barrett on IR. And Camarda? Go Bucs in Munich! I’ve been there and it is a civilized, gorgeous city.