Buccaneers: Tom Brady Found His New James White?

Getty Images Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is invested in helping running back Ronald Jones II become better in the passing game.

“He always tells me to get low in my routes and run my routes like I already have the ball,” Jones said, via the team’s website. “A lot of times I was trying to get a feel for the defense, if it was zone or man. I’m working on getting that pre-snap read and then just exploding through my routes, just finishing. I think that’s been what we’ve been working on now just in the shorts and stuff.”

The Buccaneers have yet to have a full practice with COVID-19 disrupting the normal training camp schedule. Tom Brady recently talked about the challenges of getting everyone on the “same page.” One of those objectives appears to be the receiving game out of the backfield.

“Put as much time and energy now as we can into it,” Brady recently said. “I think the reality is that the clock is ticking on everybody. We’re gonna have to work as hard as we can and not waste any minutes of any day trying to get used to each other — embrace the challenge and see what we can become.”

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The Next James White?

Last season, James White caught 72 passes from Brady. Only five running backs had more receptions than White in 2019.

Jones showed promise in the passing game last year, which was his second in the league. He netted 10.0 yards per catch on his 31 receptions in 2019. Pro Football Focus graded him just 73rd among all running backs in receiving. He was viewed as more favorable by Football Outsiders metrics (17th in DVOA and 20th in DYAR among 50 qualifying backs).

It won’t be the easiest transition as Jones will have to improve other skills to stay on the field. Pass protection was a major problem for Jones last year and if he solves that issue, the former USC Trojan could be the workhorse back in Tampa. However, the signing of LeSean McCoy may signal that Arians isn’t exactly confident in that.

Jones to Get First Crack at Starting Gig

Jones will be starter, as Arians recently said. There will be some competition behind him with McCoy’s arrival and rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the fold.

Tampa Bay selected Vaughn with the No. 76 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft out of Vanderbilt where he had multiple 1,000-yard seasons. He joined the team this week after a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list. With Vaughn coming back, Tampa Bay is now at full strength, as no other player is on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Fellow running backs Aca’Cedric Ware and Raymond Calais were activated from the list last week.

Vaughn is a lock to make the roster along with Ronald Jones. McCoy making the regular-season roster also seems likely.

Make no mistake this is Jones’ gig to lose. Jones, who was the team’s second-round pick in the 2018 draft, has had an up-and-down career so far. During his rookie season, he was stuck behind a stable of ho-hum backs and saw just 23 carries. That changed the following season where he took on a bigger role, recording 172 rushes that netted 724 yards (4.2 yards per carry).

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