This season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have relied heavily on their rushing attack with Leonard Fournette. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury forced Fournette to miss the end of the season on injured reserve (IR). Even though he was activated ahead of the Wild Card matchup against the Eagles, Fournette did not play. With that said, will he be healthy enough to play in the Divisional Round against the Rams, or will Fournette’s lingering injury keep him out again this week?
Update 01/22/22: The Buccaneers have activated RB Leonard Fournette from IR. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that Fournette will play tomorrow against the Los Angeles Rams.
Leonard Fournette injury update
After suffering a hamstring injury back in Week 14 during the team’s 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Fournette spent the next month on IR. Tampa Bay designated him to return him last week, but ultimately he wasn’t healthy enough to suit up. Head coach Bruce Arians said that Fournette couldn’t get up to top speed, and the team wanted to wait until he could.
Nevertheless, Buccaneers fans were given a bit of good news when The Athletic’s Greg Auman reported that Fournette was present at the team’s walkthrough on Wednesday [January 20].
On Thursday [January 21], Fournette was at practice and on the field. Arians hasn’t provided another update, but things are looking positive.
Fournette has been integral for the Bucs in 2021
Fournette took the momentum he garnered during last year’s Super Bowl run and continued his impressive performance into this season. The running back leads the Buccaneers with 812 total rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. At the time of Fournette’s injury, he was also the team’s fourth-leading receiver with 454 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.
His numbers have been especially impressive, considering the Buccaneers are the heaviest passing team in the league.
During the regular season, the Buccaneers passed the ball 65.7% of the time. This high passing rate helped Tom Brady further cement himself in the NFL all-time season and career QB record books.
With Fournette out, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard shared the load against the Eagles. Vaughn finished the game with 17 carries, and Bernard was right behind him with 13. They both ended up finding the end zone.
If Playoff Lenny returns, can he succeed against the Rams?
Fournette and the Bucs will be at home this week when Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams come to town in the Divisional Round. The Rams have a top-five rushing defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 100.8 rushing yards per game. Interestingly enough, they are near the bottom of the league (24th) in rushing touchdowns allowed, averaging 1.1 per game.
This is somewhat in line with what we saw from Los Angeles against the Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card round. Although the game script made it so that the Cardinals needed to throw the ball more than rush it, the Rams still only forfeited 55 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Still, they did let James Conner find the end zone.
What does that mean for Fournette if he is to return from injury? Well, realistically, he might be a boom-or-bust option this week. Playoff Lenny might find more success in the passing game rather than on the ground. However, a TD seems more likely than not. In what is expected to be a high-scoring game — the current over/under is set at 48.5 — TDs shouldn’t be at a premium.
If you want to see how we expect this game to play out, make sure to check out our Rams vs. Buccaneers pick and prediction preview.