The NFL and the NFL Players Association have come to an agreement on how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and NFL training camps have opened up across the country, including in Tampa Bay. PewterReport.com offers up its analysis of each position on the Buccaneers as new quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates prepare for the 2020 season.
Table of Contents
Ronald Jones II| Age: 23 | NFL Exp.: 3 years | 5-11, 225 LeSean McCoy | Age: 32 | NFL Exp.: 12 years | 5-11, 210 Dare Ogunbowale | Age: 26 | NFL Exp.: 2 years | 5-10, 220 Ke’Shawn Vaughn| Age: 23 | NFL Exp.: Rookie| 5-10, 214 T.J. Logan | Age: 25 | NFL Exp.: 4 years | 5-11, 195 Raymond Calais| Age: 22 | NFL Exp.: Rookie | 5-8, 188
Jones enters his third season as Tampa Bay’s starter. The Buccaneers staff has done nothing but rave about Jones and what they expect of him in 2020 after a much-improved second year (724 yards, 4.2 avg.) after a disastrous debut to his career as a rookie when he rushes for just 44 yards and averaged 1.9 yards per carry. Jones also showed huge improvement as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 31 balls for 309 yards. It took Jones half a season to beat out incumbent starter Peyton Barber and to take over the primary ball-carrier role for the team, and it also took until the final game of the season for Jones to notch his first career 100-yard game.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images
Despite the Buccaneers stating publicly that Jones will be the team’s feature back in 2020, they decided to add Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn to the mix in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. Vaughn will be facing an uphill climb for carries – at least early – as rookies will be at a big disadvantage this season with a much different offseason full of missed reps in OTAs, mini-camps and no preseason games.
Vaughn wasn’t the only running back addition the team made this offseason. After losing Barber, the Bucs had the youngest running back room in the NFL until adding 11-year vet LeSean McCoy to the mix earlier this month. While McCoy is an experienced player at age 32, his best days are most likely behind him. Still, coaches love veteran players who tend to be trusted more than the younger guys. McCoy could win the third-down back role and develop into Brady’s best friend out of the backfield.
Ogunbowale is back and will be fighting for a roster spot and to get touches if he makes the team. While not a running threat – just 11 carries for 17 yards in 2019 – Ogunbowale was a threat as a receiver and led all running backs with 35 receptions for 286 yards. With McCoy and Vaughn now on the team, Ogunbowale will need to continue to develop as not just an offensive weapon but also as a core special teams player to keep his place on the roster. Ogunbowale was the team’s special teams captain last year and also served as the personal protector on punts.
Logan was the team’s primary kick returner in 2020 until an injury forced an early end to his season. Logan managed just five offensive touches in 2019 and his back will be up against the wall to make the team in 2020. The Bucs, like most teams, can’t afford a roster spot for a kick returner who does little else. Logan averaged 9.5 yards per punt return and 20.8 yards per kick return last year.
The wild card in the bunch is Calais, who Arians showed a lot of excitement about following the draft. The 188-pound diminutive scat back might be the most athletic open-field runner the Buccaneers have, but is inexperienced and will be hurt by the lack of a traditional preseason. Calais rushed for 886 yards on 117 attempts in college at Louisiana and scored six touchdowns, while also returning 99 kicks for 2,493 (25.2 avg.)and two scores.
Camp Battle To Watch: Third Down Back – McCoy vs. Ogunbowale
With 35 receptions for 286 yards, Ogunbowale had the trust of the coaching staff for the most part in 2019 as the team’s primary back on third down. He also had three rushing touchdowns, but just 17 rushing yards and was used in short yardage and goal line situations at times. As the season went on, Jones took on more of that role and will likely be the team’s feature back in 2020, barring a total collapse of his confidence or a major injury. So where does that leave Ogunbowale?
Bucs RB Dare Ogunbowale – Photo by: Getty Images
With the addition of McCoy as a free agent, the competition to back up Jones and also be featured on third down will be a battle to watch. Unfortunately without a preseason and live reps against other teams it will be harder for the staff to made the call on who fills that role. McCoy is the best receiver among the backs with over 500 career receptions, but to play in Arians’ offense on third down being able to block blitzing pass-rushers or help the tackles from time to time. And it’s not just being able to block, it is also about identifying where the rush is coming from and whether you have to stay in to help, or release as an outlet for Brady.
McCoy has the edge on experience and better skills after the catch, however Ogunbowale is probably better adept at blocking free blitzers and more willing to stick his nose in a scrum. Ogunbowale was also the personal protector on the punt team last season so his willingness to play special teams might help him keep a spot on the roster. At the end of the day, McCoy most likely is the team’s first choice as a receiver out of the backfield due to his play making ability and experience.
The Bucs will likely keep four or five running backs depending on which backs star on special teams.
The Sleeper: Calais
Bucs RB Raymond Calais – Photo courtesy of Louisiana-Lafayette
Calais ran one of the fastest 40 times at the NFL Combine this year, posting a blazing 4.42 time. Despite being undersized (just 5-foot-8), could make a case for a roster spot depending on how fast he is able to grasp the complicated Arians’ offense.
Calais must also show a willingness and a dependability to return kicks for the Buccaneers. He returned 99 kicks in college including two for touchdowns and could bring some excitement in the return game, something that has been missing for a long time from any Bucs special teamers. He’ll have to beat out Logan to win a spot on the 53-man roster spot, but a spot on the practice squad might be in order during his rookie year with no preseason to show the coaches what he can do in a game environment.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com