With Bucs training camp quickly approach the PewterReport.com staff asks – and answers – 15 critical camp questions that need to be answered this August as Tampa Bay prepares to embark on the 2019 season. Over the next 15 days PewterReport.com will offer up its thoughts on the topics that the Bucs will need to sort out in order for the team to be successful this season and possibly compete for a long-awaited playoff berth.
These are the things that the PewterReport.com staff will be following closely in camp, and invite our readers to share their thoughts as well in the comment section.
Bucs Critical Camp Question No. 9:
Can Ronald Jones Win The No. 2 RB Job?
Yes. It will take a good training camp with some productive preseason games, but Jones has the capability to get it done.
There’s no sugarcoating it, Jones had a terrible rookie season in 2018 that saw him carry the ball just 23 times for 44 yards and one touchdown. Jones was also inactive for the first three games of the season, and saw very little playing time when dressed. His last rush attempt came in Week 12, but even worse than that, his confidence was shaken.
It would be easy to give Jones the bust label early on as a second-round pick, but you can also point out that Jones was not entirely given a fair shake. It’s tough to get a rhythm going when you get no carries, and even when the Bucs were out of the playoff race Tampa Bay didn’t even bother to get a look at Jones to see what they have for the future.
Even in the limited amount of time Jones had, he constantly had defenders in the backfield before he could even touch the ball. He had to try and break tackles before reaching the line of scrimmage, and that’s on the offensive line, not Jones. That was something that new coach Bruce Arians pointed out early on when addressing the topic of Jones’ struggles.
Since Arians has taken over as head coach, both he, Jason Licht, and running backs coach Todd McNair have all given Jones a vote of confidence. So far in 2019, it looks like Jones has received the message and put in the work to get better this offseason.
Coming into this year, Jones has looked to wipe the slate clean with his offseason training. In an article from Charean Williams on Pro Football Talk, Jones mentioned that he’s added weight, going from 208 to 221 pounds to become stronger, and also set some goals for this season.
“Personally, for me, I just want to lead the team in rushing and be that player who can ignite the offense,” Jones said. “Because that’s who I am. I’m a playmaker.”
Although he’s increased his weight, that doesn’t mean it will slow down Jones. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash out of his pro day at USC before the draft, and that speed is not only why the Bucs selected him, but it’s the speed type of back that this team needs.
With Peyton Barber as the starter, the competition for the number two position is between Jones, veteran Andre Ellington, and undrafted rookie Bruce Anderson. What Jones has over his two teammates is that game-breaking speed. In Arians’ offense he’ll more than likely have more opportunities to run in open space by design.
Another issue for Jones last season was his ability to catch the ball. It was a liability in training camp that festered over into the regular season, which limited his usage on third down. McNair mentioned back at his press conference in May that they had been working on this with him.
One of Arians’ greatest successes came from a speed back in David Johnson, who did as much damage in the passing game then he did in the run game, if not more, which included a first team All-Pro selection in 2016 under Arians. It will be imperative for Jones to improve on this if he wants to see the field.
The veteran Ellington will could get the early nod as the third down back due to his experience in Arians’ offense and his pass catching ability, but that doesn’t mean Jones won’t get the majority of carries after Barber. If that Bucs want to be successful, it should be Jones that is second on the team in rushing, not Jameis Winston.
Jones is responsible for his own struggles in 2018, but that’s not exactly the whole story. With improved play calling, the offensive line, and Jones himself, the Bucs could find that untapped potential for Jones in 2019 and set themselves up well for the remaining two years of his contract.