Jacquizz Rodgers may still be Tampa Bay’s starting running back, but Ronald Jones will have a real role in the Buccaneers offense.
When the Buccaneers used a second round pick on Ronald Jones it was fair to expect he’d play right away. Early returns from Tampa Bay claim the former USC star could be one of the NFL’s most impactful rookies in 2018.
The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Jones should receive somewhere between 15 and 20 carries per game next season. If that prediction comes true, it will represent a pretty even split between Jones and expected starter Jacquizz Rodgers.
The team’s early confidence in Jones is good news for Buccaneers fans. Rodgers isn’t the type of back that’s going to soak up a ton of carries for his team. He just isn’t big enough to be a feature back. Rodgers only carried the ball 64 times for 244 yards last season. The simple truth is he wasn’t very prolific or productive for the Buccaneers last year.
His ineffectiveness, combined with the departure of Doug Martin, leaves plenty of opportunity for Jones. He isn’t a bruiser in the backfield either, but his compact 200-pound frame should allow him to carry a significant load this season. Jones carried the ball 261 times for the Trojans during his last seas as a collegiate.
The real question, of course, is just how effective Jones can be. Jameis Winston badly needs the Buccaneers running game to help him shoulder some of the offensive load. Part of his interception problem is directly related to the pressure on him to create big plays for his team. If Jones can turn into a quality NFL runner it could really help balance out the Bucs’ offense.
That doesn’t mean Jones needs to be a home run hitter in the backfield. Emerging as a consistently productive runner will be much more important. Martin led the team in carries last season and only managed a putrid 2.9 yards per carry. Rodgers’ average of 3.8 was better, but still, below-average for a starting running back. If Jones can handle 20 carries a game and produce a yards per carry average of 4 or more it could drastically change the way defenses game plan for the Tampa Bay offense.
Ronald Jones is going to get big-time opportunities next year for the Buccaneers, but he’ll need to produce early and often to maintain that workload. He has the talent to be successful, but it’s still a big ask for a rookie to contribute so much so soon.