Bucs keep distributing, and Leonard Fournette keeps delivering
Fittingly, the blue-collar back arrived at the postgame podium in a trucker's hat with a bright orange bill and one word emblazoned in the front in orange letters against a white backdrop. DISTRIBUTE. Leonard Fournette, primary benefactor of distribution these days in the Bucs' offense, then spoke the way he performs: head down, straightforward, more functional than flowery.

"To be honest, it's just hard work, that's all," the resurgent 26-year-old tailback said following his third consecutive game of 100-plus total yards in Thursday's 28-22 win against the Eagles. "Throughout the week, we have a game plan, and I just try to follow it as much as I can down to the core, to help my team out and put it in a better position. That's all I'm doing."

But that's not all. The dude of a dozen nicknames - Playoff Lenny, Lombardi Lenny and now Workhorse Lenny - is assuming a greater offensive load with each game. Against the Eagles, Fournette had a game-high 81 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and caught all six passes Tom Brady tossed to him for 46 yards. "Lenny's been really, really good, really solid - run and pass, and pass protection," coach Bruce Arians said. "He's playing as a really good three-down back right now at a high level."

A healthy game-day scratch only 10 months ago, Fournette emerged from an emotional funk to enjoy a dazzling postseason. Now he has broken free from the tailback logjam the Bucs had at this season's outset.

In his past three games, all Bucs wins, he has totaled 139, 110 and 127 total yards, with three total touchdowns. The Bucs' opening drive of the second half Thursday offered a microcosm of his versatility - and value - in that span.

He converted twice on third down with runs of 20 and 6 yards, and ended the 12-play march with a 1-yard scoring run up the middle to give the Bucs a 28-7 lead. For the drive, Fournette had six carries for 39 yards and a 4-yard catch.

"Man, Lenny, he surprises you every time," outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. "Because you know he's got the power, he's got the speed and the shakes, too. Like the one out here (Thursday), he just put the foot in the ground and cut up on the guy, broke his ankles. He looked real good. I'm proud of my boy Lenny, man. He went off."

Fournette attributes his recent surge to neither groove nor rhythm (though both likely are by-products of consistent touches), but more to his greater familiarity with the offense, his peers and his quarterback. Deemed a pass-catching liability once upon a time, he said extra route-running sessions with Tom Brady have become a daily practice occurrence. "(Brady is) trying to tell me what he likes, what he thinks the route should be, and I just follow him," Fournette said.

The result: distribution from his quarterback, and lots of it. "No. 1, I think I'm just blessed to be in this position," Fournette said. "From being cut (by the Jaguars in 2020) now to being a part of helping this organization and this team win, I'm going to start with that. And also, my coaches and my teammates trusting me, knowing and believing I can get the job done at the end of the day. When you have that, my teammates plus my support from my family and my kids, everybody back in (his native) New Orleans, the sky's the limit for me."

Joey Knight, The Tampa Times, published 15 October 2021