When Bruce Arians and his staff took over the Buccaneers following a season in which Tampa Bay averaged just 89 rushing yards per game, good for 20th in the league, and their second-round draft pick Ronald Jones racked up just 44 yards on 23 carries, it was speculated that they may bring in a new weapon to help out the running back committee.
After a review of the roster, Arians brought in his former running back Andre Ellington but opted against making a splash signing or trade, instead putting his faith in the tandem of Jones and Peyton Barber along with run-game coordinator Harold Goodwin and running back coach Todd McNair to develop them.
McNair was made available and spoke to the Tampa media on Monday about how things are shaping up with his young backs.
“I was pretty satisfied with how they played,” Mcnair said about Barber and Jones’ performance on Friday against the Steelers. “Of course it was brief, they only had a few plays. I think three carries a piece, Peyton caught one, Ronald caught one. But I’m pleased with they’re development and how they’re coming along now. They still have a ton of work to do but so far it’s been pretty positive.”
Barber and Jones have found their place in the Bucs’ organization in very different ways, however, with Barber climbing his way to the top of the depth chart after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 while Jones was drafted in the second-round out of USC in 2018, bringing with him the expectations and scrutiny that comes with that draft position. After a year where struggling would be nothing short of an understatement, Jones is hoping to bounce back in year two with a new coaching staff and McNair spoke about what would be the biggest steps toward him making that leap.
“I said in my first press conference, with him, it’s learning how to be a pro,” McNair said. “How to approach it every day. It’s more about mindset with a kid like that, just that aspect of it, because the rest of it will come.”
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) August 12, 2019
An emerging story this training camp has also been Dare Ogunbowale, another unsigned back the Bucs added before last season after being signed and eventually released by the Houston Texans. Ogunbowale worked primarily on special teams when active last season, as the committee of Barber, Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers took the bulk of the touches, but as written here at Pewter Report, Ogunbowale has stood out this training camp and it all came to fruition on Friday night as Ogunbowale punched in two touchdowns on a team-high 34 rushing yards over 10 carries against the Steelers.
“He’s had a pretty good camp,” McNair said. “He’s been making plays and doing a lot of stuff for us. He’s really sharp, he’s very smart, he’s been making those plays all throughout training camp and he had a good night the other night, punched two in the end zone and made so plays. We’re happy with his progress.”
Ellington was brought in after spending a stint with Arians in Arizona and after spending a year out of the game. Ellington brings veteran experience to a very young group of running backs, he brings experience in Arians’ offense to get guys up to speed with a new system and, now healthy, can be a weapon used in the passing game and as a change of pace back. With the performance of Ogunbowale, don’t be surprised if he slides past Ellington on the depth chart, but it’s very possible that Ellington rounds off a four-man position group that makes the 53-man roster come week one.