Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians wants more from running back Gio Bernard than just scoring touchdowns.
After the Bucs’ Week 5 win over the Miami Dolphins, Arians was asked for his assessment of Bernard, and the coach got candid admitting he was not pleased with his blocking. Arians threatened “that’ll cost him his job” if the poor pass protection continues.
“I was pleased with it at the end, I didn’t like when he got run over on his pass protection and that’ll cost him his job if he can’t pass protect on third down,” Arians told reporters on October 10.
The running back position has been a source of tension early this season for the Buccaneers. Bernard was signed this offseason to be featured in a similar role to the one James White played with Tom Brady in New England. While the Bucs do not have plans for Bernard to be an every-down back, the veteran has been utilized by the team on passing downs, but Arians issued a warning that this may not continue.
Bernard did see a slight decrease in snaps since Arians’ comments, playing in just 16% of the offensive plays against the Eagles in Week 6, down from the 23% he had against the Dolphins. Fournette’s stellar performance likely played a role in this decision as well.
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Brady on Bernard: ‘He Comes in Attentive, Ready to Go’
Bernard had four carries for 21 yards against the Dolphins while adding two receptions for 14 yards and a touchdown. Heading into the season, Brady glowed about playing with Bernard.
“Obviously his skill set is one thing. but really his professionalism is what’s really been great for me to see,” Brady noted during a SiriusXM interview in August, per Joe Bucs Fan. “I’ve been around a lot of really professional guys over the years and Gio’s just right there. You know, he comes in attentive, ready to go, brings it every day, wants to learn, just trying to do the right thing, it means a lot to him.
“It’s just great to see, especially my standpoint who’s been doing this 22 years; I think I appreciate the guys that do this at a high level consistently year-in, year-out, and then when you see it daily, day-in and day-out, that’s a great thing for me to see. I know Gio’s going to be successful in whatever he does in life, you know, because he’s doing things the right way.”
Arians on Fournette: ‘He’s Become an All-Around Really, Really Solid Back’
Fournette appears to have a hold of the team’s starting running back spot, but Arians admitted Ronald Jones still has a chance to overtake him. After a slow start to the season, Fournette has come on strong the last two weeks notching 12 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins. Fournette also added four receptions for 43 yards, and Arians believes his improvement in the passing game has been noticeable.
“Yeah Lenny’s, you know, he’s he’s playing outstanding,” Arians noted on October 10. “He’s always had great hands. He’s taking it on himself to concentrate better in the passing game and sees how much of a threat he can be in the passing game, pass protection, same thing. So, he’s become an all-around really, really solid back and that was [why] he was drafted that high, and he’s playing to that level.”