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A common refrain during the Bucs 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys was the lack of playing time for Giovani Bernard. In a game in which the Bucs threw 50 passes to 14 runs, the script seemed to be tailor-made for more reps for Bernard.

That feeling only intensified when Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette hearkened back to 2020 with back-breaking mistakes in key moments. Jones fumbled a first down carry after a Cowboys missed field goal, giving Dallas a short field for a touchdown drive. On the very next offensive play for the Bucs, Fournette dropped an easy screen pass that deflected for an interception.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: USA Today

But when asked if he saw more opportunities to get Bernard involved when reviewing the tape, Arians was quick to reject the notion.

“No. He’s our third down back and two-minute back,” Arians said. “No. Not at all.”

Considering Jones “struggled mentally” to get over his fumble, per Arians, perhaps the team should consider using their safest back more often. When Jones didn’t return to the game, the team was forced to rely on Fournette the rest of the way. The passing game has always been an adventure for Fournette, who led the NFL in drop percentage last year.

“Very average,” Arians said when asked to assess his running backs performance in the passing game. “We dropped a screen pass for an interception. We don’t like to throw to running backs if we don’t have to. They’re checkdown people. We don’t bring backs in here to throw them a hundred passes. We got enough guys outside to throw a hundred passes to.”

However, a quick examination of the tape shows a couple designed passes to Fournette, one of which was the drop resulting in a turnover. Yet Bernard played just 17 snaps to Fournette’s 42 on the night. Bernard also finished the night with two catches for 12 yards, while Fournette had five catches for 27 yards.

If the Bucs are looking to improve on the performance of their backs in the passing game, playing Bernard more would help. Also, is Bernard so unimpressive as a runner that he can’t match Fournette’s 3.6 yards per carry?

Bernard is never going to be the feature back in Tampa Bay, and that’s ok. But what has Fournette done to earn the lion’s share of the work if Jones is mentally hung up? If the Bucs want more reliability and playmaking from the position, playing Bernard more often is the answer. Hopefully it doesn’t take more mistakes from Fournette and Jones for the coaching staff to see that.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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Eddie
8 days ago

Brady, always rely on a quick receiving running back to move the chain. Maybe this is what Arian means by third down back.

76bucsfan46
8 days ago

Well why spend the money for the guy. And if Rojo gets confidence problems when he makes mistakes then maybe we should draft a RB next season. Keep Geo and Bring in a stud RB

NaplesFan2.0
8 days ago

I love BA’s attitude and player development skills, but I absolutely hate how stubborn the guy can be. Gio is an upgrade in every way in the passing game to both Rojo and LF, and not using him is terrible mismanagement of these players skill sets. Hopefully he changes his mind about this like he changed his mind about AB.

fredster
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
8 days ago

Agree on Bernard actually.
as far as On Fournette causing the int., Funny they called it an “easy screen pass” because it was! Not an “uncatchable high bullet” that you said “no WR” could catch. Lol. Too funny. And yes BA can be stubborn as a jackass.

Last edited 8 days ago by fredster
NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  fredster
7 days ago

Wrong Naples Fred. If you see 2.0 behind it, I am the artist formerly known as FLM (FireLichtMovement)

Benjamin
8 days ago

Jon, you hit the damn nail on the head man!!. I was screaming at my TV for them to use Gio Bernard when running screen plays to the RB. That INT that bounced off of Fournette’s hands would have been a reception had Gio been in the game. I really wish Bruce would say less at his press conferences because this answer or comments comes off as sounding very uneducated on who he has at QB. Tom is one of if not the best at using his RB’s coming out of the backfield and on screen plays so when they… Read more »

Captain Sly
8 days ago

You young writers are always trying to create a story when their isn’t one. Gio’s role on this team is as “situational back”. When Gio is in the game you are telegraphing a pass because Gio can’t run between the tackles. At least with RoJo & Lenny you gain control at the line of scrimmage and force defenses to have to keep an extra defender in the box ie; Michael Parsons/Keanu Neal. The absolute last thing Dan Quinn wanted to see happen was to have his prized 1st rd pick Parson who has 4.3 speed play the run at LOS.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Captain Sly
6 days ago

So much wrong with this comment. I guess the first thing is, Gio CAN run between the tackles, he just hasn’t been given an opportunity. Secondly, i understand the need for the threat of the run, but youre acting like Gio is some bum who can’t run the ball. He has averaged 4 ypc for his career, and while that’s not the best stat, it is better than LFs 3.9 career ypc. You have to respect the run and pass with him.

Mike Pengelly
8 days ago

Still wondering about yesterday’s near total lack of play action which was so successful in the playoffs last year. All stats show TB12 thrives when given the extra time play action gives him as it freezes the defense for a second or two.

Spitfire
8 days ago

Thats ridiculous. BA gets too stubborn too often when it comes to making the obvious replacements. I don’t know what his push is fo Fournete, he is an average runner at best and looks like he’s gonna drop the pass even when he catches it. During the game that was the exact thought I had of why thy don’t just put Bernard in every play. Our running game rarely lights up the scoreboard except when RoJo really takes off, but t least in a game like that with ll the terrible mistakes why not just put Bernard in there? And… Read more »

Spitfire
Reply to  Spitfire
8 days ago

Also, BA needs together with the times. Running the ball is necessary but RB’s also need to catch, which is why they design plays to do it. Brady thrived in NE when he had a sure handed back to throw to when no receivers were open, that’s why Bernard is here. If he really intends to be that stubborn and only have Bernard in there for 3rd downs only and 2 min drills, he might regret it when the seasons over. Brady wants a pass catching back, just freakin give it to him. I’m sure Bernard can squeeze out 3… Read more »

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Spitfire
7 days ago

I 100% agree with you Spit. I actually don’t agree with all the narratives given here at PR, but this one is so cut and dry. There is absolutely no way around the fact that LF is below league average in every aspect of his job, and Rojo is not a very good receiver. Gio is SUCH an upgrade. This is borderline negligent behavior. I understand that they want to keep LF in for the threat of the run, but if we gave Gio more carries, and he performed well, the opposing defense would have to respect Gio on the… Read more »

MojoU
8 days ago

It’s week 1 and I don’t think BA trusts Bernard enough yet to give him more snaps. If Jones and Fournette keep coughing it up, I’m sure we’ll see more of Bernard on 1st and 2nd down, especially in the red zone. I’m pretty sure if Brady wants to see more of Bernard in the backfield, that’s what we’ll see. It’s going to be a long 17 game season and we’ll probably be using all 3 RBs extensively before it’s over. I agree with others here that pulling Jones after 4 carries for fumbling could backfire and wreck his confidence.… Read more »

bucballer
8 days ago

Mistake not putting RoJo back in after fumble. BA has done this before with RoJo sitting him after a fumble. But with Playoff Lenny not exactly running like the wind and causing the first INT by juggling the ball and tipping it to the defender, BA should have put RoJo back in the game to see if he could establish the running game a bit more. It could become a mental self fulfilling prophecy for RoJo that if he fumbles he will be pulled out of the game and benched… therefore what does he do? He begins to press to… Read more »

Dman
Reply to  bucballer
7 days ago

Yes, yes and yes.

scubog
7 days ago

My how things have changed here in Bucville. Our championship team wins a game, albeit not quite as easily as we thought, and the coach is “stubborn” for not doing what we fans think.

One of the issues with some offensive players not getting many opportunities…………..we didn’t have the ball. Dallas controlled the clock with that horizontal passing game plan.

Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
7 days ago

The expert internet commenters who all know far more about how to win games and championships in the NFL than our “stubborn” head coach. They call him stubborn because he does not agree with them, and sees things both on the field and in practice that the internet experts will never see or understand.

Any head coach who can take a team that missed the playoffs for an entire decade, and turn them into Super Bowl champions by his second year is a coach who must not be dissed and dismissed. Period. Performance talks.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 days ago

How about Fournette’s performance whiffing on blocks and bobbling or dropping most passes? I have a feeling BAs success might have something to do with a man named Tom Brady. BA was here the year before Brady got here right? Not saying he isnt a great coach, but if we’re calling a spade a spade, Tom is the main reason for his success.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  scubog
7 days ago

He’s not stubborn for not doing what we fans think scubog. He’s stubborn for signing one of the best pass catching/blocking backs of the last decade, and relegating him to only 2 minute work. Judging by how he was signed, Licht knew this to be a weakness on this team. Arians has shown to be stubborn until forced to change.

lambeau
7 days ago

Stubborn Bruce.
Leonard also bobbled a second pass, so the INT wasn’t a fluke.
I think an untold story is Tom behind the scenes trying to manage Bruce–play action, motion, throwing to running backs, etc.

Naplesfan
Reply to  lambeau
7 days ago

Stubborn dumb internet commenters.

Fournette won the game with his catch of a ball Brady threw that should have been intercepted, and went on to move the chains in the fourth quarter drives.

Stubborn coach? Jeezus you guys are dense.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 days ago

You really are a peach aren’t ya guy? Its not our fault you’re old and alone. Maybe if you were nicer to her, she wouldn’t have left you lol.

Last edited 7 days ago by NaplesFan2.0
Dman
7 days ago

This is all crap. They were lining up Fournette in the slot. Someone thinks this guy can catch because he certainly isn’t the runner he was in college. I’m old enough to remember when a RB fumbles you give him the ball on the next play to reestablish his confidence. BA specifically chose not to do that and instead sidelined RoJo for the rest of the game – his decision. Instead of blaming your RB BA, just man up and say you benched him for putting the ball on the ground.Oh, but then you’d have to explain why you didn’t… Read more »

deeznuts
7 days ago

It would be a mistake to not give Bernard some more looks on offense – maybe 2nd and 10 or 1st and 15 scenarios. I’d also like to see Antonio Brown return a few punts. RB and CB are the weakest links on our team by a long shot.

DMIbucs98
7 days ago

A lot people think Gio is just a “3rd down” back. He has more than shown he still has juice in them legs and should be recognized as a change of pace. I’m from Des Moines, IA so I’m forced to watch a lot NFC and AFC north games. He’s never just been 3rd down guy like a Kevin Faulk or Darren Sproles, and was (and could still) good number 2. Him and Rojo would compliment each other so well. And if the Bucs are going to have more split out sets then it makes sense to give snaps to… Read more »

Naplesfan
7 days ago

Ledyard and his weekly Fournett-hater column. No – that screen pass was NOT an easy pass to catch – it was high, hard, and flat, few receivers can haul that in. If it had been a foot lower or had a little touch and arc on it, then it’s a much easier pass to catch. Ledyard and all the other Fournette haters then completely ignore how Fournette bailed out Tom Brady which effectively won the game. Brady was under pressure and rather than throw it away, he made a very ill advised high arc pass to the sideline that should… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by Naplesfan
deeznuts
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 days ago

On the screen play, it would have hit him in the face mask had he not got his hands on it. In hindsight, getting hit in the helmet with the football would have been a better outcome.if he can’t handle a pass like that, he shouldnt have his number called on screen plays. He made a nice catch on the other play, but I wouldn’t call it bailing Brady out. He came back to the ball like he’s coached to and posted his body up on the LB to take away his lane. The problem is that Fournette doesn’t catch… Read more »

aredsoxfan1
Reply to  Naplesfan
7 days ago

I like Fournette just fine and give him plenty of credit for the late play along the sideline. But calling that screen pass difficult for an NFL RB is setting the bar incredibly low. Fournette should have caught the ball easily. It was unfortunate but at least he showed the ability to turn the page and move on from his mistake. I think all 3 RB will have their chances to shine. It’s a benefit in today’s game to have multiple options as the Bucs do. Different guys will have chances in different games and it will help all of… Read more »

bucballer
Reply to  aredsoxfan1
7 days ago

Agree aredsoxfan! Will need all four RBs to produce. It’s a long season!

DMIbucs98
7 days ago

Also I’ve been wanting to state this for sometime but yall know I only comment once here and there. But what ever happened to that drunk ass dude always wearing the sombrero and Jack Ass Bob. Haven’t seen them on here since I think Week 4 of last season. Kind of makes me think my theory was about them and that was the same person. Which woud be crazy because they would argue occasionally. Just funny how both disappeared after T.Brady started catching fire. They/He might still be here but can’t show face after their failed assessment of Brady(couch GMs).… Read more »

Emilio
7 days ago

ROJO ? I want No-JO… Fournette isn’t great, but we have 2 busts at RB in ROJO & Vaughn. Need to draft one, AND sign another vet next year.

aredsoxfan1
Reply to  Emilio
7 days ago

I like Vaughn. Barring injury he probably won’t get the chance to show it until next year but I think he will be an easy replacement for RoJo.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Emilio
7 days ago

we definitely have some holes to shore up in the offseason. Carlton Davis, and Vita Vea are locks to try and resign in my mind. Jpp, Cappa and Whitehead might be gone. Agreed though that we need another rb this coming offseason. Most rbs are better than Fournette.

Last edited 7 days ago by NaplesFan2.0
Dude
7 days ago

I don’t buy what Arians said about Jones not getting over his fumble and that’s why he didn’t come back in the game. It’s not like it’s his first fumble. If that was the case, then he’s done, trade him why you can. Talent is worthless if you don’t have the mentality to use it. But this smells fishy to me…

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