When Ronald Jones II dropped a screen pass with 13:48 remaining in the second quarter, he disappeared from the field for the rest of the half.
What many thought may have been a benching for Jones turned out to be a new revelation for Leonard Fournette and his role in the Bucs’ offense.
“We were in a two-minute drive and Leonard [Fournette] is our nickel back now,” Bruce Arians said in a press conference on Monday. “RoJo – that would’ve been a big one and he knows it, too. He doesn’t usually drop a screen pass. But no, there’s nothing to that. Leonard was doing [well] and Ro (Ronald Jones II) is our guy.”
Fournette played for the first time since Week 3 after suffering an ankle injury in Denver. While he technically dressed for Week 5 at Chicago, it was only for an emergency situation. In his return on Sunday against the Raiders, Fournette ran 11 times for 50 yards and made six receptions for 47 yards.
It was the first time all season that the Bucs’ top four backs – Jones, Fournette, LeSean McCoy and Ke’Shawn Vaughn – were all dressed for the game, and yet it was only Fournette and Jones that received snaps on offense. Fournette led the way with 40 while Jones had 30.
Based from Arians’ comments and his production in the game, it looks like moving forward that Fournette has replaced LeSean McCoy as the primary back on passing downs. In four games, McCoy has 10 receptions for 61 yards and two drops. In three games Fournette has 11 receptions for 81 yards despite not playing in four games.