One of the biggest questions surrounding the Bucs’ backfield this season isn’t who will lead the team in carries or even who the best pass catcher is. Instead, how the group will perform in pass protection this season has easily been the biggest cause for concern when evaluating the group’s pre-2020 season body of work.
Nevertheless, head coach Bruce Arians’ began Monday’s availability with the media by praising the running backs’ pass protection work on the first day of full pads in training camp.
“It’s a tough defense to see right away with all the blitzes and the guys, but I think our backs are doing a heck of a job picking up the blitzes and blocking their guys,” Arians said. “We’ve been going against each other in shorts, first day in pads obviously and I like the effort. I thought the enthusiasm was good and the hitting, you could hear the practice.”
Pass protection hasn’t been a strong suit of Ronald Jones through the first two seasons of his career, but adding 7-8 pounds of muscle this offseason and the confidence that comes with experience could be crucial to the development of his all-around game.
Rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn wasn’t a standout in pass protection at Vanderbilt, and the lack of on-field reps he’s received this offseason isn’t likely to help him make a smooth transition to the pro level.
One would think that LeSean McCoy’s experience would make him an asset in pass protection, but it certainly wasn’t a role Kansas City entrusted to him last year. In fact, long-time backup and special teams ace Dare Ogunbowale entered training camp as by far the best Bucs’ back in pass protection, despite his minimal offensive usage.
Any improvements by the Bucs group as a whole is very encouraging, and as we get closer to the season, hopefully we can identify which individuals have made the biggest strides in pass protection.
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