JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Leonard Fournette's ability to run the football was never in question, but during the pre-draft process some wondered if he’d be a capable receiver out of the backfield.
The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t have those concerns, however, and so far the rookie from LSU hasn’t given them any reason to doubt that he can be a factor as a pass catcher.
Coach Doug Marrone said Fournette has dropped only one pass -- it came during the team’s third organized team activity on Friday -- since the rookie joined the team after being drafted fourth overall on April 27.
"The one thing I have been impressed with is he’s caught the ball well," Marrone said. "I’m excited about that."
Fournette carried the ball 616 times for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns in three seasons at LSU but he caught just 41 passes. He did average 12.8 yards per catch, however, and said there really wasn’t any reason for teams to doubt his ability to catch passes because he showed he could do that at his pro day.
"I’ve always been a natural catcher," Fournette said. "Just the school I went to we ran the ball a lot, so I don’t put too much on [the criticisms]. When they throw me the ball my whole mentality is catch everything that comes my way.
"... I’d say I think I’m doing a good job catching the ball, catching it at the highest point, concentrating on it."
Running backs play a big part in the passing game under offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. In his two seasons as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo under Marrone, backs caught 109 passes in 2014 and 97 passes in 2013. Fred Jackson, who was the team’s leading rusher in 2014 and second-leading rusher in 2013, had 113 of those 206 receptions.
Jaguars backs had 77 catches in 2016, including 50 by T.J. Yeldon. Hackett took over for the fired Greg Olson and Jaguars backs had 45 receptions in the final nine games.