The running back room is one of the deepest positions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the team has made it clear that Ronald Jones is their RB1. After an early fumble in Week 10, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians pulled Jones aside to tell him just that as the running back would go on to break away for a 98-yard touchdown run.
“Up in New York, [Jones] had a rough fumble on a ball that was on the ground,” Arians explained, per Buccaneers.com. “This one he was trying to get a little extra. And he went in the tank in New York and it really bothered him and he thought he really hurt the team. We told him, ‘Hey, dude, you’re our guy.’ I knew he was going to break one sooner or later. Blaine [Gabbert] and I looked at each other and Blaine said, ‘He’s going to take it to the house.’ I said, ‘Good chance on this play,’ and he did.”
After his release from the Jaguars, the Buccaneers signed Leonard Fournette, but it looks like he is the team’s clear No. 2 back as Tampa heads toward the stretch run. The Bucs also have LeSean McCoy and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn on the roster but both players have played sparingly behind the two top backs.
Jones Used the Jumbotron on His 98-Yard Run vs. Panthers
The Bucs have recommitted themselves to putting an emphasis on the running game, and Jones has been a major factor in recent weeks. Jones admitted he used the jumbotron to find the endzone during his 98-yard scamper against the Panthers.
“Once the play snapped, I saw a gap. … All of a sudden, you’ve got one guy to beat,” Jones explained, via Associated Press. “I knew it was going to be a footrace. I just had to look up at the Jumbotron to see where the rest of the defense was going to be and change angles. It was a track meet like the good old fashioned days.”
Arians Opted Not to Bench Jones After His Fumble vs. Panthers
Arians opted to show faith in his running back rather than bench Jones after an early fumble against the Panthers. Buccaneers running back coach Todd McNair believes this faith through adversity allowed Jones to have one of his best games.
“It’s huge. You can’t every time a guy makes a mistake yank him out…we have to let him know we totally trust him, we have his back,” McNair told Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud. “…The Giants game he had a similar play and fumbled.”
All signs point to the Buccaneers continuing to lean on Jones with Fournette being sprinkled in throughout games. Arians explained his thought process on sticking with Jones despite the early mistake.
“When he had the miscue in New York, it really put him in the tank because he thought he let the team down,” Arians noted, per KSAT.com. “We talked a lot about that: ‘One play doesn’t change games.’ …When he came to the sideline it was all encouragement, and I really liked the way he bounced back and had a hell of a ballgame.”