Examining the Buccaneers’ Running Back Depth Chart

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to open their season with arguably more hype than they’ve ever had. Tom Brady is in town and his arrival severely raises the expectations in Central Florida.

Brady’s arrival also means the running back situation in Tampa may be a more crucial element of the Bucs game, as they should find themselves winning more in 2020 and therefore, needing to run the ball more. Let’s take a look at the Buccaneers’ running back depth chart:

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Starter: Ronald Jones II

While the franchise made offseason additions at the position, Ronald Jones II enters this third year of his career as the starter for the new-look Buccaneers. The former USC Trojan could be a league-winner in fantasy, as Pro Football Action explains, and on the field, he could be the guy that Tampa counts on to keep the offense going as they look to keep Brady from overextending his game.

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).

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).

Jones has been working on his pass-catching skills in hopes of getting more out of that area of the game. Tom Brady, who’s has made stars out of pass-catching backs in the past, has been giving Jones tips.

“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.”

2nd-String: LeSean McCoy

Pass protection was a major problem for Jones and if he solves that issue, the former USC Trojan could be the workhorse back in Tampa. However, the signing of McCoy may signal that Bruce Arians & Co. isn’t exactly confident in that.

McCoy spent last season with the Chiefs, winning a Super Bowl. Prior to that, he spent four years with the Bills and six with the Eagles.

McCoy’s Chiefs tenure lasted just one season. He was a significant factor early in the 2019 campaign, though his efficiency took a hit as the season progressed. McCoy averaged 4.6 yards per carry last year, however, after week 8, he saw just 32 carries that netted 103 yards. He saw just one snap in the Super Bowl for Kansas City.

The Harrisburg, PA-native has just 101 careers last year, which marked a career-low. While he may not rack up the rushing attempts, he’ll likely be an important factor on the new-look Buccaneers.

3rd-String: Ke’Shawn Vaughn

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. Vaughn is a lock to make the roster along with Ronald Jones III and likely LeSean McCoy.

Vaughn is a downhill runner who showcased explosion at the collegiate level. Reminds me of a Mark Ingram in his running-style and the Bucs would to see Ingram-level production from their rookie.

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Other Running Backs in Tampa Bay

The Bucs currently have three other running backs on the roster.

Dare Ogunbowale, who has just 11 carries in 2019, is a pass-catching specialist and it may seem like the signing of LeSean McCoy does not bode well for his chances of making the roster. However, the former Wisconsin Badger was the Bucs’ special teams captain last year and his role on that unit may give him a leg on these other guys.

T.J. Logan was used as a kick returner last season before an injury shut him down. It’s unlikely that the 25-year-old back makes the roster.

Raymond Calais was the 245th pick in the 2020 draft and he’s been a favorite of Arians. The speedy scatback may have fared better if there was a preseason, as he could have showcased his ability on the NFL level. He has experience returning kicks in college and if he makes the team, it’s likely he claims that role for Tampa.

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