Leonard Fournette displays power running in successful …

FOXBOROUGH, Mass | Leonard Fournette saw a small seam open before bursting through like a bowling ball, appearing unfazed by several New England Patriots’ approaching during Thursday’s night preseason opener at Gillette Stadium.

It came on a fourth-and-goal play from the New England 28-yard line during the first quarter, and Fournette eight-yard gain set up the Jaguars’ opening scoring drive that ended on a successful 27-yard field goal by Jason Myers.

It was the kind of power running the Jaguars have been craving for and a big reason why they selected Fournette as the fourth overall pick during the NFL Draft in April.

In his debut game won by the Jaguars 31-24, Fournette didn’t start. Instead, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone opted to alternate his tailbacks for the start of each offensive series. Veteran Chris Ivory started, then it was Fournette getting on the field for Jaguars’ second series before it was T.J. Yeldon’s turn.

“This game is all about confidence,” Fournette said. “Team is confident enough in me to give me the ball to try and give us the next opportunity.

Neither Ivory or Yeldon enjoyed the success like Fournette did, especially on their field goal scoring drive in the first quarter when he continued to gain yards after initial contact was made by the Patriots’ linebackers. Leonard scored his first NFL touchdown in the second quarter on a 1-yard run before ending the game with 31 yards on nine carries.

“I thought he looked good,” Marrone said at halftime. “I think he has to run a little bit with his pads lower at times. Obviously, you can see the power that he has. It is good to get up there. It’s good to run. It’s good to get the pads going, obviously in this type of atmosphere.

“Then on the other turn, we have to do a better job tackling. I think that is one thing that showed up in the first half. And I know our tackling, our fits in the gap, making sure we are lined up properly and getting ready to play through and make the tackles.”

Four of Leonard’s first five carries were runs up the middle. But he didn’t stop there. Fournette’s touchdown run came on a goal-line play in the second quarter from the 1-yard line after he blasted off tackle after following the blocks of fullback Tommy Bohanon and right tackle Josh Wells.

“It was an honor,” Fournette said about his touchdown run. “I didn’t know I was getting the ball until the huddle. When I scored, I just turned around and thanked my offensive line. They did a great job for me.”

On the drive, Fournette not only showed power but also elusiveness. On one of his runs, he spun around a defender before getting dragged down by Patriots’ second-string linebacker Jonathan Freeny after a 4-yard gain.

After the game, Fournette spoke about how he thinks the NFL tempo isn’t as fast-paced as he initially thought it would be.

“I lot of people said it was going to be fast,” Fournette said. “But playing in the SEC, I think that really helped me.”

In three seasons for LSU, Fournette scored 40 touchdowns and rushed for 3,830 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. And against the Super Bowl champion Patriots, Fournette didn’t waste an opportunity to display his progress made since the start of training camp. In the first half when the Jaguars led 17-10, Fournette gained 31 yards of the Jaguars’ 50 yards rushing on nine carries.

With an offense that figures to rely heavily on the run, they showed flashes they can be successful against the league’s best team. Still, it’s only the preseason. But beyond Fournette, backup running back Corey Grant also enjoyed a big moment – a 79-yard touchdown run down the left sideline.

After three quarters, the Jaguars had already gained 170 yards rushing, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and two touchdowns. They ended the game outrushing the Patriots, 207-116. Last season, the Jaguars’ eight rushing touchdowns were tied with Houston and Tampa Bay for the second fewest in the league.

“It was good to go against another opponent and not just your own team,” said Ivory, who rushed for 20 yards on six carries. “I think they were able to make us better and we were able to make them better. To come out here and get a win in the first preseason game that was big for us.”

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