With the 2019 NFL season getting closer and closer each day, which players are facing pressure to perform at a high level this year?
Believe it or not, we are just 84 days away from the beginning of the 2019 NFL regular season. While to some that may seem like forever, to others that means football season is quickly approaching. Will the New England Patriots repeat as Super Bowl champs? Who’s the team to beat in the NFC? Is there going to be a “Cinderella team” this year? The questions are endless.
Speaking of endless, the amount of pressure NFL players are under year in and year out is immense. The ability and willingness of teams to move on from players who aren’t performing up to their expectations shouldn’t be underestimated. Because salary cap flexibility is a constantly-emphasized entity of its own, some seats are always hot.
With that said, some players feel the heat more than others. Certain positions, such as quarterback and running back, are under intense evaluations around the clock and have little to no room for error. Let’s take a look at a few players who are facing make-or-break seasons in 2019.
3. Leonard Fournette
Heading into the offseason, there wasn’t much concern about the Jacksonville Jaguars on the defensive side of the ball. That became even truer after the franchise selected EDGE Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Despite Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue’s contract situations being hot topics as of late, the Jags will be fine on defense. The other starting 11 is the question mark.
Entering his third season in the league, running back Leonard Fournette is a near-household name among football fans. His rookie season saw him run for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns. He also caught 36 balls out of the backfield, proving to be a threat whenever he touched the ball.
Last year’s version of Fournette was quite different. Playing in just half a season’s worth of games (8), the former LSU Tiger averaged 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. Finding the end zone six times in those eight games, scoring wasn’t the problem. Being an effective, efficient part of the offense was.
There’s been a lot of change on offense for Jacksonville. For starters, Blake Bortles is out and Nick Foles is in at quarterback. New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will work to renovate the Jaguars’ offensive system and improve a unit that ranked in the lower half of the league in both passing and rushing a year ago.
Fournette has two years left on his rookie contract. If he wants to cash in and get a healthy payday when the 2020 offseason rolls around, he’s going to have to prove he’s worth it. First and foremost, showing he can stay healthy and play a full 16-game season is important. Improving upon a dismal 2018 season will go a long way towards making the Jaguars a better team.