by Ryer Gardenswartz
Ronald Jones never quite lived up to the hype last year. However, a new season brings a new sense of hope for Jones.
He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft (38th overall) out of USC. He was going to a Tampa Bay team that didn’t have a concrete work horse, but Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers quickly took over the backfield. In fact, Jones was a healthy scratch for the first three weeks and never started a game in 2018. He also had to battle through a hamstring issue that kept him sidelined for four games. All of this resulted in a less than stellar rookie season where he only totaled 44 rushing yards and a touchdown.
One way to instill confidence into a young running back is by not adding any more competition. Some believed that the Bucs would add another body to the running back room to add pressure for both Jones and Barber. However, they didn’t draft or sign anyone notable to date. It looks like the new coaching staff in Tampa Bay is giving Jones a chance. He should also benefit highly from operating in Bruce Arians’ offense this season too. After seeing the success David Johnson had with Arians in Arizona, it isn’t crazy to think that Jones should get a big boost. However, Jones will need to work on his abilities in the passing game if he truly wants to be a breakout star. Arians’ has often utilized a viable pass-catcher out of the backfield, so it would be a big opportunity for Jones if he can improve. He was a second-round draft pick for a reason and can still be a big-play threat, like he was in college.
Through OTAs, it seems as though the entire Buccaneers organization has been pleased with the progress that Jones made over the offseason. Arians has had positive things to say about Jones thus far and noted that a healthy offseason has helped him improve his game. “Probably right now, the guy that we’re all collective the most impressed with right now is Rojo [Jones],” said Arians. “Just his attitude, his willingness to do extra and you can just see the confidence rising in him.” Getting early accolades from your new head coach is definitely promising, but we need to see how Jones holds up once the pads are put on.
Jameis Winston, the starting quarterback, has also been high on Jones throughout the early goings of the new season. “His confidence, his comfort, RoJo’s a smart guy,” Winston remarked. “He’s getting comfortable in this offense. No one is breathing down his neck. He’s more relaxed and executing at a high level.”
Jones has a lot to prove this season. Barring any injuries, it looks like he will see the field significantly more than his rookie season. While owners might want to be cautious to go all-in on Jones, it will be worth following his training camp and preseason progress. As of now, it doesn’t look like he’ll be the immediate starter, but could serve as a nice compliment to Barber for Tampa. There will definitely be opportunities for big plays in Arians’ pass-happy offense, which could bode well for the entire Tampa Bay backfield. He has the chance to become of the breakout stars of 2019, but it won’t happen overnight.