FAB 3. A Bigger, Better RoJo

Confidence is key when it comes to performance in the workplace, and if a football player lacks confidence on the gridiron it can lead to a very short career in the NFL.

After rushing for just 44 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries (1.9 avg.) in 2018, Bucs running back Ronald Jones II looks like a brand new runner, brimming with confidence while rushing for 234 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

Jones should have even more yards as he had runs of 25 yards and 54 yards in his return to the L.A. Coliseum in last week’s 55-40 win over the Rams called back due to two holding calls.

“Yeah, don’t get me started on those two calls,” head coach Bruce Arians said.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Tampa Bay’s offensive line has done a great job of run blocking this year, paving the way for Jones and Peyton Barber. Jones finished the game with 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (3.7 avg.) a week after rushing for 80 yards on 14 carries (5.7 avg.) against the Giants.

“It felt good because the O-line did a great job of getting that push against a great defensive front,” Jones said. “I felt good. I got comfortable and got into a rhythm. It means a lot to be out there for the last, end-of-the-game situations. To get that run that put us in field goal position, it was a great feeling. It was great being back in Cali, too.”

The run Jones is talking about was a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter in which he ran outside towards the sideline, but wisely stayed in bounds to keep the clock running. A few plays later, Matt Gay hit a field goal to extend the Bucs’ 45-40 lead to 48-40 with just under two minutes remaining.

But that 24-yard dash would have been his third-longest run of the day had the other two breakaway jaunts actually counted.

“That hurt,” Dotson said of the two holding calls that negated what could have been 79 more rushing yards for Jones. “RoJo is gaining confidence and I think the coaching staff is doing a good job of putting that confidence in his head, saying, ‘All we have to do is get a hat on a hat and with the guys we got running the ball they’re going to take care of the rest.’ It’s just putting so much confidence in that kid and you can see him growing from it. RoJo has the chance to be a good NFL back in this league. He just has to keep getting better and keep running like he’s running.”

Even though those negated runs don’t count on the stats sheet, Jones still ripped them off. They count in terms of building confidence in the fact that Jones can break off a 50-yard run, just like he did often in college at the Coliseum while playing at USC.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Getty Images

“It gives our team momentum,” Jones said. “I like making those big plays and being the one with the ball in my hands. It was good to see.”

Jones didn’t have much confidence last year because he didn’t have much room to run the ball behind an offensive line that struggled to open holes. But Jones had to do his part, too. He entered the league weighing 205 pounds and is now at 220 pounds after hitting the weight room and bulking up this past offseason. With more body armor this season, Jones has the strength to power through arm tackles and bounce off would-be tacklers for more yardage.

“It’s a great feeling and I have to give the credit to my trainer Luke Neal out in Arizona for getting me right,” Jones said. “I was running hills and building leg stamina and working on the little muscles – not the big muscles. The muscles that you don’t think you use on every down, but you do. The core muscles, getting some stamina in them, definitely helps late in games.”

The other confidence-builder in Jones’ corner is Bucs running backs coach Todd McNair, who coached Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush at USC.

“He was my idol,” Jones said of Bush. “Coach has made our reads easier and slowed the game down for us. He just tells us to go out and compete. He’s the man behind the player.”

While McNair worked on Jones’ hand placement for catching the ball, Neal worked on Jones’ pure catching ability.

“That’s a credit to Luke, having me work on my hand-eye coordination by catching little things like tennis balls all the time and bouncing them off the wall and catching them,” Jones said. “I tried to catch the ball sometimes and get up the field too fast last year. It was just a focus thing. I probably caught 2,000 balls this offseason and was running routes.”

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II
Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Getty Images

Last year, Jones dropped his first NFL pass on a screen, which would have gone for a touchdown at Chicago, and finished the year with seven catches on nine targets for 33 yards. This season, Jones has three catches for 71 yards and has caught every ball thrown his way this season, including a 41-yard screen pass against the Giants and a 12-yard swing pass that picked up a first down in L.A. on Sunday.

After what could have been a 149-yard rushing performance against the Rams, what’s next for Jones? It seems like only a matter of time before he claims the Bucs’ starting running back role and gets his first 100-yard rushing performance, which could come as early as this Sunday in New Orleans, as he’s running with much more power and confidence thanks to a great offseason where he worked on his body and hands, and with better blocking upfront this year.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

30 COMMENTS

  1. I think you’re spot-on withe the defense Scott. “Built to stop the run”. We have really 1 pass rusher, and 4 other guys on the line (Suh, Vea, Nassib and Gholston) typically that have fewer sacks in their career than Barret has through 4 games 🙂

    That’s not a knock – it’s a very interesting strategy to playing defense that I think Bowles is pushing quite well…However (there’s always a “however”)…that means teams are going to pass….and our secondary is abysmal. This should be the flashing red light that warns the GM to get some help….unfortunately our GM is like Homer Simpson at the switch watching the red light flash and commenting on how pretty it looks.

    Anyway, on to RoJo…it’s amazing what a young kid with talent can do if you let him touch the ball more than 30 times in a season.

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    • That same “Homer Simpson GM” is also the same guy who brought in Suh, Nassib, Gholston oh and wait…Shaq Barrett.

      But you have got to be right, huh?

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      • Well, Gholston was brought to Tampa (in the 2013 draft to be specific) by Dominik….so maybe no more needs to be said about your post, and your need to be right, huh.

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        Rating: -8. From 18 votes.
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        • …and was kept by Licht with a second contract.

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          • the statement was “brought in” by Licht….Gholston was “brought in” by Dom…but if we want to give Licht credit for re-signing guys, then I guess we need to ding for not re-signing guys like Donald Penn who made two pro bowls after Licht got rid of him and is still starting in the league, still rating higher than Donovan Smith (unbelievably!!); like Bradley McDougald who made the pro bowl last year….TBH, the list should really be a long one, but he’s done so poorly bringing guys to town, that there aren’t more good ones who have moved on.

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    • You obviously missed the whole point of the article. Bowles & BA wants you to throw the ball 70 times BA quote “I have never lost to it”. The philosophical belief is when you throw it that much it will force turnovers. The CB’s are on an island the whole game, there job is to make an open field tackle, not necessarily Pass Breakups.

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      • Not sure if your comment Captain was directed at me, but when I said “it’s a very interesting strategy to playing defense that I think Bowles is pushing quite well”, what I meant was,

        it’s a very interesting strategy to playing defense that I think Bowles is pushing quite well….sorry if that was confusing.

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        • I am referring directly toward your comments “our secondary is abysmal” and our GM starring at a “flashing red light”….

          The GM allowed BA & Bowles to draft the CB’s that fit their scheme. Why are you beating up on Licht when we are winning with the new scheme and players?

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          • Not defending what East said, but the Bucs DBs have to start getting better at following #54’s lead and jumping routes now. They do that, and they’ll become a secondary which opposing teams will have to take seriously.

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          • ok – I’m not trying to be a downer. It’s great that we won last weekend, and that we’re now 2-2.

            But any casual observer can see that turning the corner with our franchise, as we’ve been trying to do for the better part of two decades, is not going to happen with the secondary we have. We can get better – indeed we are much better, but we just got torched for 500 yards (by a guy with the 25th best QBR)…we’re 31st in pass defense! On any given Sunday that Jameis doesn’t have the best game of his career (as he did last Sunday) we are in trouble, and that’s not fair to Jameis, the offense, or the run defense.

            Why? Our GM has spent 5 of our last 11 premium picks (round 1 and 2) in his 5-year draft tenure, on the secondary!!!…which is 31st in the league. I’m hard on him, because he has spent a lot of resources – as our supposed expert in this area – and whiffed repeatedly. In fact, the best player to come through our secondary during his tenure, is a guy he decided to let walk….and made the pro bowl last year for Seattle.

            So, if I’m going to jump on the Jason Licht bandwagon, I’m going to need much more in the results department…10 wins, playoffs, some of the guys he’s drafted actually making the pro bowl, a better track record in FA (I know Barrett is great – he is, but I haven’t forgotten Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, Swaggy Baker, Vinny Curry, Robert Ayers, and on and on)….you could take as many swings as Licht has and eventually find a diamond…I need something more consistent to jump on that bandwagon.

            At the moment – I’m leaning much more towards all of those fans that said 2019 was going to be better because of coaching.

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  2. Exactly. Suh brings the attitude McCoy never did. Respect from opponents and teammates. McCoy was soft and a cry baby and that tainted the defense. Always excuses and now its stout. Sunday is a big test!

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  3. I won’t play my greatest hits on why McCoy was so overrated. Suh was always going to be an upgrade over McCoy on the field. This team was always going to have to stop the run first to be successful.

    I’m as happy as a puppy with two peters over the performance of the defense so far, even including secondary play. Fast, physical, and swarming to the ball.

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  4. Good information Scott.

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  5. Our run defense is incredible with those 2 big boys taking up space. Its not even close if you ask me who id rather have, suh or mccoy. It also speaks to how coaching can make a huge difference, although some don’t believe that. Im looking at you naples.
    Amazing when a coach has faith in you what it can do, in the cases of jameis and jones in particular. Barret is just an animal and you cant say enough about this guy. And hes only going to get better once jpp gets back in the thick of it.
    As for the cosching staff, anyone looking at Atlanta and seeing things eerily similar? A crappy run game and a qb that has the most picks in the nfl? Thats koetter in a nut shell and he looks worse by the day. I have a ton of faith in this staff, stack a win this week and we will be in great shape!

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  6. Suh brings an attitude that permeates the defense. Sure he’s past his prime, but there’s no mistaking his impact on the run defense and he looked pretty fast on the scoop fumble. Listened to an interview with Jordan Whitehead this week and he said Suh is pretty quiet, goes about his business but works hard. Then vs. the Panthers Suh speaks up in the huddle late fourth quarter and said they were gonna stop ’em and everyone took notice. I like that.

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    • Licht and his guys in the front office are going to have some tough decisions to make this off season. It seems like we’re finally going to spend some real money on defense (Shaq and hopefully Suh as well), justifiably so based on the first 4 games of this season. However, I’m thinking it will only come at the expense of cutting or trading some solid players on both sides of the ball. If we keep getting better as the season wears on, it just makes the off season next year more interesting.

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  7. “I’ve learned a lot from watching him play,” Vea said of Suh. “He’s all about his business. He’s a real professional and I’ve learned a lot from him on and off the field. He gets a lot of double teams for us. He does a lot of the dirty work and I get a lot of the one-on-ones because of him. Obviously they are going to double Suh before they double me.”

    Mic drop on Geraldini.

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    • I would like to see Suh run at the goal line with Vea as his lead blocker!

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  8. The secondary is young you don’t fix it overnight. It will get better but calling it abysmal and trashing Licht is stupid imo. They will get better and can’t fix every issue on this team in one draft.

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    • Reps will turn our inexperienced speedy young  DBs into experienced, speedy and competent professionals.  They are still “terribly” young.

      ___________
      Go Bucs!!!

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  9. Suh is a beast I don’t care about stats he’s one of big reasons for run defense being number 1. Vea been stout as well.

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  10. Suh is everything we all hoped McCoy would be, but never was, or could be. Glad we got him, and he’s rubbing off on the rest of the defense in a good way. I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a carry, or lead block near the goal line like Sapp used to. His speed on that scope, and score was impressive. He sure doesn’t look past his prime to me. Rojo has put on some muscle this season, but Koetter’s offenses just don’t commit to the run game. Just look at Atl. Freeman only had 12 carries last week while Ryan threw 60 something times. The last time Freeman’s numbers looked this bad was his rookie season, when Koetter was his O.C.. Backs have to get carries to be effective, and O linemen have to get opportunities to run block to wear down defenses. I’m glad we’re finally doing just that.

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  11. I agree that the secondary has left a lot to be desired. I do not agree that they are hopeless. Football Outsiders rates Carlton Davis as the 10th best cornerback in the NFL based on the first four week and with a 65% success rate. He has played very well as have the two safeties who show a lot of potential.

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  12. Bucs need another CB to step up. Edwards, Whitehead and Davis will be fine long term.

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    • Don’t forget Justin Evans. That Safety’s room is looking pretty solid as it stands, but add Justin back to the mix….. MJ’s snap count is gonna be WAY down.

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  13. Good read!

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  14. That Baldinger video of Shaq Barrett has me laughing and laughing and laughing! How can you not get excited watching what SB has done in the first quarter of the season?! INCONCEIVABLE! Baldy is right, defensive ends around the league would love to end a FULL season with Shaq’s stats 1/4 of the way through! GO BUCS!!

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    • Not sure if it was intended, but I definitely heard Vizzini’s voice when I read this

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      • Definitely the intended implication! LOL! Funny moment in that movie!

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  15. The Lams had a very young coach and we had an old pro. The results are to be expected.

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