Bucs head coach Bruce Arians saw both of his top running backs turn the ball over in the first half of Tampa Bay’s 31-29 win over Dallas in Thursday’s season opener. Yet Leonard Fournette, who started the game, continued to play after his gaffe, while Ronald Jones II, the Bucs’ leading rusher a year ago, was benched for the rest of the game following his fumble.
Arians explained why we didn’t see Jones after his four carries for 14 yards in the first half. The Bucs head coach’s answer was quite revealing.
“Ro was running really, really well until the fumble,” Arians said. “Then he struggled mentally to get over it. That was too big of a game and not be totally focused. So Leonard got the rest of the way.”
Fournette turned the ball over by bobbling a screen pass, which was picked off by opportunistic Dallas cornerback Tre Diggs when the ball fell in his lap. Arians was asked about his running backs’ performance on Thursday night, specifically in the passing game.
“Very average and we drop a screen pass for an interception – we don’t like to throw to backs if we don’t have to,” Arians said. “They are check down people. We don’t bring backs in here to throw them 100 passes. We have enough guys outside to throw 100 passes to.”
Fournette finished with five catches for 27 yards on seven targets and nine carries for 32 yards (3.6 avg.). Third down back Giovani Bernard was targeted three times and had two catches for 12 yards.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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