The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs. This week’s topic: Is Starting RoJo The Right Move For The Bucs?

Scott Reynolds: I Really Don’t Know, Nor Does It Matter

There is a lot to unpack in Bruce Arians’ decision to start Ronald Jones II over Leonard Fournette at running back in the Bucs’ game this week against the visiting Falcons. I think Arians is trying to boost the kid’s confidence, especially after telling the media that RoJo “struggled mentally” to get over his fumble in the season opener. If that’s the rationale, okay, fine. I get it. But if I’m being honest, that’s the only rationale that makes sense. It’s not like Jones outplayed Fournette against Dallas. Jones had 14 yards on four carries, fumbled, and then was benched for the rest of the game.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Fournette had his own gaffe, letting a catchable screen pass bounce off his hands and turn into an interception in the second quarter. The difference is that Fournette stayed in the game and was the main running back the rest of the game because the coaches have more trust in him. He finished with 32 yards rushing on 14 carries and caught five of the seven passes thrown his way for 27 yards. Fournette had 21 opportunities compared to RoJo’s four against Dallas. And while he wasn’t great by any means – save for a tough, contested, clutch catch on third down to move the sticks in the second half – Fournette didn’t do anything to lose the starting job over his Thursday night performance.

Jones is the more talented runner. That’s a fact. He was a few yards shy of 1,000 yards last year and averaged 5.0 yards per carry. I understand that Arians wants that version of RoJo – the guy capable of running for 100 yards a game – on a weekly basis. But he’s got to earn it. Jones didn’t earn it on Thursday night.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. Arians will play both backs in every game, as he has done with the first- and second-string runners since 2019 when it was Peyton Barber and Jones. The starter usually gets the first two series and the reserve gets the third series. Whoever is more productive – the hot hand, as Arians calls it – will get most of the work the remainder of the game. Why not stick to that formula and let RoJo try to win back the starting job rather than hand it to him? That’s how he wrested the starting job away from Barber in the first place at the end of the 2019 campaign.

Jon Ledyard: Start RoJo As Often As He’ll Let You

I’m not dense. Well, at least not that dense. I recognize that Ronald Jones’ struggles to consistently stay on the field are largely due to battles with his own demons. He struggles with confidence and mistakes can often take his mind out of the game. The Bucs coaching staff is tasked with dealing with that, as is Jones, and I don’t envy any of them.

RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: USA Today

But if RoJo is right, he’s the best pure running back on the team. He’s probably the worst pass protecting and receiving option, but he’s the best with the ball in his hands. Evidence of this was on display all of last season, when Jones achieved greater success running behind the same offensive line as Leonard Fournette. If not for injuries causing him to miss two games, Jones would have finished with over 1,000 yards rushing on the 2020 season.

So, despite the mistakes and the limitations, Jones should be the starter. If there were a less-mistake prone, safer option behind him, I would change my mind. But there isn’t, as Fournette’s drop-turned-interception on Thursday night indicated. Both Bucs running backs could make a play (or fail to make one) that could derail the team at any moment. And Arians won’t play Giovani Bernard more often, so forget that. I’ll go with the back that has the greatest chance at making a big positive play to offset the mistakes in Jones.

Matt Matera: RoJo Still Gives Bucs Run Game Best Chance At Success

You can’t let one bad game determine whether Jones can be helpful to the Bucs for the 2021 season. Tampa Bay is a vertical running team. It likes to get a hat on a hat and head up field. Jones is a north-south type of runner more than Leonard Fournette is, and I still think he gives the Bucs their best chance at success in the run game.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Based on Bruce Arians’ comments post-game and during the week, it looks like it came down to a confidence factor for how Jones dealt with his psyche after losing the fumble. Again, after the fumble, not before. Arians named him the starter to boost that confidence up instantly, and why not? Not every player is the same, so if Jones needs a little extra push, that’s okay. If it will get the Bucs the best possible outcome that’s what Arians is striving for.

Fournette was able to bounce back following his egregious drop that turned into an interception. There’s no question that Jones will be able to do the same. With the Falcons surrendering 173 rushing yards in their loss last week, this is a great opportunity for Jones to turn the page and move forward.

JC Allen: Committee Approach Still The Best Option For Bucs

The Bucs don’t have a true three-down bell cow running back, so who starts the game is irrelevant in my opinion. While Ronald Jones II is the best pure runner on the roster, he is limited as a complete running back. The hot hand is still going to determine who gets the bulk of the carries once the game is underway. While it may be a bit of a confidence boost for Jones II to be named “the starter,” it will still come down to who makes the most of their opportunities.

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Leonard Fournette started Week 1 on the Bucs first drive, but saw Jones get the nod on the second drive. That rhythm and ebb and flow should continue to change week in and week out. For Jones it’s being able to have a short-term memory and move on from any mistakes. Arians said that was part of the reason why he didn’t return to game action against the Cowboys. Fournette, who had a pass go off his fingertips and turn into an interception, was able to move forward mentally from his mistake and still contribute to the Bucs’ 31-29 win.

The forgotten man in this conversation is Giovani Bernard. Not as talented a runner as the aforementioned backs he still offers enough in the run game to warrant more touches than he did in Week 1. Bernard’s expertise as a third-down back, in both receiving and pass blocking, will prevent Jones from really being a full-time starter in this offense. With three capable runners on this team but no true alpha, sure, give RoJo the start. But the title is meaningless in this multifaceted, talented Bucs offense.

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buccaneerNW
1 month ago

In case anyone forgot, Rojo was our leading rusher last year and averaged 5+ YPC. That’s not nothing. He’s our best runner, without question.

gcolerick
Reply to  buccaneerNW
1 month ago

I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that Jones is the best pure running back on the team. The problem is he also appears to be the best at turning the ball over and then has a problem with bouncing back after a mistake and keeping his head in the game….there in lies the problem. All I want for Christmas is a quality three down back!

chefboho
Reply to  gcolerick
1 month ago

I don’t understand where this narrative that Rojo has fumble issues. He literally has only 6 in 391 rushing attempts. The problem is that the first sign of adversity on the field and he gets benched fir the whole game. I say give him the damn ball 15-18 times and see what the dude has.

Last edited 1 month ago by chefboho
NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  chefboho
1 month ago

6 in 391 is actually a decent amount chef. He’s not the worst obviously, but that number should be half of that. I agree about giving him the ball that many times because he is the most dynamic runner on the team. We haven’t had a great 3 down back since the muscle hamster, and he was so hit or miss.

DT25
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
1 month ago

It’s really not. It’s a .015 fumble rate. Dalvin Cook has a .014 (11 in 789 attempts). This is a non-issue being magnified specifically due to the punishment he gets damn near every time it happens. And ironically the one time he wasn’t punished is quite literally the best game of his entire career.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  DT25
1 month ago

Counting receptions, his career fumble rate currently sits at 1.3%. It’s a higher number than you’d like to see, but it’s not a disastrous rate. For comparative purposes: last year, among only RBs who carried the ball at least 50 times, the fumble rate was .95%. Some notable backs who had higher fumble rates than Jones’s career rate (by the way, his rate last year was just 1.0% even): D’Andre Swift (2.6%), , Zeke Elliott (2.5%), Miles Sanders (2.4%), Melvin Gordon (1.9%), Dalvin Cook (1.6%), JK Dobbins (1.5%), David Johnson (1.4%). 1.3% isn’t ideal, as plenty of backs come in… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  buccaneerNW
1 month ago

What the RoJo fanboys miss here at PR is that Fournette is the more productive runner of the two … he may have a lower YPC average, but he is better at moving the chains. And, he is a favorite of Tom Brady – what, are we going to say TB-12 doesn’t know who to trust when a drive is on the line?

I think not.

chefboho
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

yeah, his 14 total carries/catches for 59 total yards and a int that was totally on him was a game changer. We get your homerism for Fournette but he’s not really all that you make him out to be week in and week out. There’s a reason Arians benched him and made him inactive at one point last year, but I forgot that you know more than these professionals do.

Naplesfan
Reply to  chefboho
1 month ago

No – Fournette did not cause the INT. Brady caused the INT by throwing the screen pass high, hot, and flat, a very difficult ball for any receiver to catch in traffic. Note that Brady did not stop throwing to Fournette after that. Indeed, when Brady was in deep trouble under the pass rush, about to be sacked, he made an il-advised toss up to Fournette on the sideline who snatched it out of the waiting hands of a DB who otherwise would surely have made the INT, and lost the game for the Bucs. Fournette saved the day on… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Naplesfan
chefboho
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Your denial is humorous. You’re literally the only person that putthat throw on Brady. And for the love of god, stop with the “high and fast pass” Are you and Fournette dating? The problem with you is the “ I’m always right” syndrome that you carry. And you have ZERO clue if that Fournette catch would’ve won or lost the game. Every news outlet out there mentioned how the int’s were on Brady, but apparently you know more than ex players and professionals 🙄

Last edited 1 month ago by chefboho
bucballer
1 month ago

Correct, the Bucs don’t have a real bell cow RB. It running back 1A and 1B and then Gio for ur third down option. I agree starting RoJo is a good thing. If we can get him going it just helps the offense that much more. Besides that it really doesn’t matter who starts as Playoff Lenny will see many reps as well. Until someone establishes dominance then it RB by committee. I only wish they would give a couple of reps to Gio as well. He’s a pro and he’s hungry as well. Throw a bone once in a… Read more »

Charlie
1 month ago

The answer to this question is that Super Bowl champion or not, Arians is being a stubborn goat when he should start Giovanni Bernard over both of these freakshows

Eddie
Reply to  Charlie
1 month ago

Totally correct. If he is not familiar with those plays using a pass receiving, quick back, he should delegate to his huge assistance staff. Gio is the wild card to confuse the other team. Use him

Naplesfan
Reply to  Charlie
1 month ago

Yeah, like, what does Arians know? Man, just because he won a freaking Super Bowl for us last year, after 10 straight seasons of not even making the playoffs, like why should we pay any attention to him.

Because we couch sitters are so much better judges of who to play.

I swear, fantasy football has turned millions of couch sitters into the worlds least qualified egotists.

SenileSenior
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Sick!

Dman
1 month ago

Please just stop all this garbage. RoJo can’t run if he’s not on the field. Just give him the damn ball 20 times a game and see what he does. If I’m RoJo I play out my contract and sign with another team that knows how to run the ball.

Eddie
Reply to  Dman
1 month ago

Think coaches are going to do just that this coming Sunday vs Atlanta

bucballer
Reply to  Dman
1 month ago

If RoJo gets 20-25 carries, I think the Bucs win! Also with 20-25 carries he will bust one for decent yards!

Captain Sly
1 month ago

Scott has never liked RoJo dating back to Dirk Koetter, so his response doesn’t surprise me at all. You let your feelings cloud your judgment and that’s why you’re so often wrong in your analysis. Head Coaching sometimes goes beyond the X’s & O’s sometimes you have to be a father to these kids who are learning how to become a Professionals. Coach is always sending strong messages to his players, We saw it with Gerald McCoy, we saw Vernon Hargraves, and last year with Leonard Fournette. Less we forget BA is a Bear Bryant disciple “if you believe in… Read more »

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 month ago

I cant say I disagree about Scott’s feelings for Rojo. The Bucs need to give him the ball, but seem committed to giving Mr. Bobbles Fournette the most touches. Rojo is the best runner on the team, and hopefully the Bucs find a way to get him the damn ball. Agreed on the head coaching position too. I think that is an area where Arians excels.

Captain Sly
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
1 month ago

Question: Is starting RoJo the right move for the Bucs? Scott’s answer: “I don’t know nor does it matter”. My answer: Of course it matters that’s why coach announced it. He’s under no obligation to release his starting lineup, he’s sending a message. It matters because of RoJo’s lack of confidence in himself. Coach has been injecting confidence in and squeezing it out of the kid every since he found him buried on the depth chart behind somebody named “Dare Ogunbawale”

Naplesfan
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
1 month ago

Really, Mr. Bubbles?

You dudes are ridiculous, really.

Captain Sly
1 month ago

Rookie Payton Manning threw 3 int’s in a game against the Patriots and came over to beg Bruce Arians to take him out of the game. Bruce Arians response “f-ck no! we’ll go no huddle and maybe your ass will learn something”. BA will not give up you if you don’t give up on yourself. He’ll coach’em hard and love’em hard and players love him for it. Just ask Payton

scubog
1 month ago

I remember a Sam Wyche saying that I always found applicable in the real world of management, “To treat people the same, I have to treat them differently.” In this case, none of us really know any of the players as well as the coaching staff. Yet, we have no problem commenting as if we know even more. If a coach doesn’t share our view he’s “stubborn”? Perhaps he’s just more in touch. We all are affected by our daily successes and failures as our own confidence ebbs and flows. As managers (coaches), part of the job is assessing an… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

The couch sitters here are much more in tune with where the players’ heads are at during a game .. doncha know that by now?

chefboho
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Yet your hypocritical self keeps talking about how much better Fournette is than Rojo like you have inside knowledge. Perhaps once you should heed your own advice.

Naplesfan
Reply to  chefboho
1 month ago

I am the anti-hypocrite, dude. I call out the excessive egotism of those couch sitters like you who claim to know better which players to use in games than do the coaches and fellow players like the GOAT.

I claim no special knowledge. I only claim facts that are easily provable but you RoJo fanboys refuse to acknowledge .. and I rely mostly on the judgement of the GOAT and our Super Bowl winning coaches.

It is the dudettes like you who are legends in your own minds.

Last edited 1 month ago by Naplesfan
chefboho
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

You clearly have no idea wha a hypocrite is. You tell everyone they’re wrong about Rojo and that Fournette is the better back. Look at the stats from last year my guy. Rojo was better in yards per carry and their drop and block rate were nearly identical. Yet for some reason you refuse to acknowledge the stats. They don’t lie, but your imagination sure does.

Last edited 1 month ago by chefboho
seat26
1 month ago

Rojo was, what 70 yards from a 1000 yard season? He is the best back we have. This is a contract season for him. He will play his heart out.

Horse
1 month ago

It’s been 17 years since I managed people and it’s probably still done the same way. Every person understood their strengths and what they needed to work on, regardless of position. I’m sure it’s done the same way in sports too.

surferdudes
1 month ago

All this argument tells me is it’s time to draft a bellcow RB. Neither Jones, or Lenny has been able to grab the job, and pardon the pun, run with it. Both are on one year deals, and from where I”m standing don’t deserve a big pay day. What we’ve seen of Vaughn he ain’t the answer either. Imagine how scary good this team would be with a stud back like Kamara. I think Scott said it best, does it matter who’s starting?

toofamiliar17
Reply to  surferdudes
1 month ago

Where do we do that next year? We’re going to have to replace multiple starters with draft picks. Can’t afford to pick a back high at all, and can’t afford to sign a veteran we’ll feel really good about. Could be a tough spot at the position next year. I figure we’ll be drafting multiple in the 4th round or later, keeping Vaughn, and hoping that we can just piece the position together next year.

fredster
1 month ago

I agree with Scott how does it matter who starts or has first drive or two when Arians is going to give it to “hot hand” anyways? It doesn’t matter pure and simple. Bucs have odd situation with no RBs that can do it all. Arians is also quite stubborn in regards to Bernard and great many things. Why did we get Bernard if only using 15 or so touches a game? I’d try to use Bernard more for sure. I’d use Fournette more early in games and RoJo later since he’s better runner and harder north south runner and… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by fredster
lambeau
1 month ago

Leonard thinks he’s a grea runner; he needs limited snaps until he can watch film and see how poor his vision is; RoJo needs encouragement and probably ball security training, forget throwing to him; Gio needs more action–James White runs very infrequently and proves that tipping the defense to the likeliehood of a pass doesn’t hobble the offense.

drdneast
1 month ago

It would do my heart good to see the Bucs run the ball like 35 times for 200 yards against the Falcons. You could tell RoJo was devasted by the fumble against the ‘Boys and althought it’s good to see him so upset about a poor play, he needs to treat it like a CB allowing a long TD against him. Notate it and move on. In his defense it was a perfectly delivered punch to the ball but it was still very early in the game and more than enough time left for him to make up for his… Read more »

toofamiliar17
1 month ago

@scott, your take here reads as if PR’s training camp reporting didn’t even happen. You ALL talked openly about how Jones definitively won the RB battle, how he was the best back on the field both as a runner AND as a pass catcher. One fumble undoes aaaaaaaalll of that, including Jones being better last year, too? He needs to “win back the starting job”? Didn’t he literally do exactly that on a daily basis over a period longer than a month? What the heck was that drawn out training camp battle even for if a handful of snaps with… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  toofamiliar17
1 month ago

Dude – RoJo was not benched because he fumbled the ball. Anymore than Tom Brady was benched because he threw a couple of interceptions. RoJo was benched because his head was no longer in the game. Arians sees that, but the knucklehead couch sitters here in the comment threads don’t see that … or don’t want to see that. When RoJo fumbled and was on the sideline the TV cameras focused on him. He didn’t look at all like Tom Brady does when he makes an error (he just drills down and focuses on what he needs to do better… Read more »

Naplesfan
1 month ago

The obsessing over who is the “starting running back” is dumb and unproductive. There are very few running backs in the league who are bell cow three down backs with great running as well as receiving as well as blocking skills. If a particular player gets rolling and in a rhythm, of course keep handing him the ball until it’s no longer working or he’s tuckered out. But many times, in this pass happy league of 2021, it’s hard to get 25 carries to a runner. I don’t care who starts … what I care about is that whoever is… Read more »

Emilio
1 month ago

NOJO ! It’s 2021. If a RB can’t catch, pass protect (both of which he is really bad at), and has a fumbling problem to boot, he has no place on the field. It’s his 4th year, people – he’s not gonna get better at either. Call it what it is – he’s a bust, who’ll be gone next year, (speaking of busts) along with Vaughn.

Eddie
Reply to  Emilio
1 month ago

We will know more this Sunday.