Game slowing down for Leonard Fournette, and that's good news for Jaguars

Fournette could be a top-10 fantasy RB (0:52)

The Jaguars' reluctance to throw the ball in 2017 means more carries for Leonard Fournette, who should be on your radar as a No. 2 RB. (0:52)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Every year, coaches and players talk about rookies needing to adjust to the speed of the NFL game. It’s something that gives nearly all players problems at some point. Some never adjust.

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette isn't having that problem. In fact, things have actually slowed down for him now that the players are practicing in full pads.

"Without pads, everybody's moving real fast," Fournette said. "You can't really block anyone because you don't want to hurt anybody. With the pads, it's a lot slower. You're reading your blocks, and the play is coming to you.

"It's easier now."

That's great news for the Jaguars and potentially terrible news for opponents. The fact that Fournette already feels comfortable -- the first preseason game is still more than a week away -- means the Jaguars should have no qualms about heaping an extensive workload on his shoulders in 2017.

Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie with Dallas and carried the ball 322 times, which was the third-highest total by a rookie running back since 2000. Only LaDainian Tomlinson (339 in 2001) and Alfred Morris (335 in 2012) had more carries.

Eighteen rookies have carried the ball at least 250 times since 2000, which seems to be a logical place to start when discussing Fournette in 2017. That's an average of 15.6 carries per game, certainly reasonable considering the emphasis on the run game under coach Doug Marrone. Remember, Marrone joked that he'd run the ball every play if he could.

Fournette, who averaged 19.3 carries per game in three seasons at LSU (616 carries in 32 games), would join elite company in Jaguars history if he were to carry the ball 250 times this season. Only Fred Taylor (four times) and Maurice Jones-Drew (three times) have done that, and they rank first and second, respectively, on the franchise's all-time rushing list. They're also the only two players in Jaguars history who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.

Fournette doesn't have a feel yet for how much he's going to carry the ball, but it's safe to assume he'll get plenty of work even if he doesn't carry it 250 times. The Jaguars want to cut down on the number of throws by quarterback Blake Bortles.

Bortles has thrown 1,706 passes in his career, which, according to ESPN Stats & Information, is the fourth-most by a quarterback in his first three seasons in NFL history. Only Andrew Luck (1,813), Drew Bledsoe (1,756) and Derek Carr (1,732) have thrown more.

Having Bortles throw that much clearly hasn't been a winning formula. Although Bortles has thrown for 11,241 yards and 69 touchdowns, he leads the NFL in turnovers since 2014 (63), and the Jaguars are just 11-34 in his 45 starts.

Marrone and Tom Coughlin, the executive vice president of football operations, have talked about committing to the run more since they were hired in early January. That's why they drafted Fournette fourth overall.

Fournette's self-described quick adjustment seems to validate that -- and likely will earn him an even bigger workload.