Bruce Arians Addresses Buccaneers’ Running Game

Leonard Fournette

Getty Leonard Fournette carried the rushing load of late for the Buccaneers.

After a record-low performance, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians wants to revive the running game in Week 10.

The Bucs (6-3) mustered eight yards on five carries, abandoning the run before the first quarter ended against the New Orleans Saints (6-2) in a 38-3 blowout loss. Tampa broke the record for the fewest rushing attempts in a game, which stood 87 years according to CBS Sports.

Reviving the running game will help the Bucs when they visit the Carolina Panthers (3-6) in Week 10 Sunday. Tampa ran the ball effectively in the first meeting in Week 2, rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns with the primary combination of running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II. Arians hopes they will generate similar results at Carolina on Sunday.

“The 1-2 punch is really back in full force,” Arians said in Wednesday’s press conference.

It didn’t start as a 1-2 punch. Arians claimed Jones would be the starter in September following the acquisition of Fournette from the Jacksonville Jaguars according to NFL Network’s James Palmer.

Jones logged most of the carries in Week 1 at New Orleans with 17 carries for 66 yards. Fournette only ran the ball five times for five yards.

RB Competition Emerges

Fournette came up big for the first time in a Bucs uniform with 103 yards and two TDs.

An ankle injury slowed Fournette after Week 3 per CBS Sports. He had seven carries for 15 yards against the Denver Broncos in Week 3 and didn’t see carries again for a month until the Las Vegas Raiders game in Week 7.

Jones ran the ball well for the Bucs in October with three-straight 100-yard games. That included a two-TD performance against the Green Bay Packers in Week 6.

Then the Bucs started going to Fournette more often against the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Giants in Weeks 7 and 8. He had 25 carries for 102 yards in those two games while Jones had 20 carries for 57 yards.

Changing Roles

NBC Sports’ Mike Florio reported in October that Arians chose Fournette to be the “nickel” running back instead of LeSean McCoy, another running back the Bucs acquired in the offseason. Fournette’s role has only grown since.

Arians addressed Fournette’s increased load of late during Friday’s press conference.

“When Leonard’s in there, we don’t take him out. He stays in there on third down,” Arians said.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t thrown a TD pass to either Fournette or Jones this season, but Fournette has shown more production on pass-catching plays of late. He made more plays catching passes out of the backfield with 15 catches for 107 yards during the past three weeks, including 41 yards receiving against the Saints. Jones caught nine passes for 34 yards during that stretch.

Jones still leads the team in rushing with 538 yards and four TDs. Fournette has 225 yards and two TDs with half of his yards coming in the past three weeks.

“I think RoJo’s played really, really well,” Arians said in Friday’s press conference. “He hasn’t done anything to lose his job.”

“I like the way the tandem’s working,” he added.

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