It’s too early to call Ronald Jones a bust, but his inability to do anything productive in the preseason has the Buccaneers concerned.
Drawing lasting conclusions about a rookie based on his preseason play is foolish for an NFL front office. That’s good news for Ronald Jones. If the Buccaneers were forced to evaluate him based on his four preseason outings he’d be out of a job.
To say Jones has struggled for the Buccaneers offense would be entirely too kind. His play as a pro to date has been absolutely putrid. A total of 22 yards on 28 carries is nowhere good enough for a player who was originally expected to get plenty of carries in 2018.
When Tampa Bay spent a second-round pick on Jones in April’s draft, many people expected him to become the team’s starting running back in pretty short order.
Peyton Barber lacks the ability to be an every down back in the NFL and Jacquizz Rodgers is much better suited to be a third-down back. That seemed to leave the depth chart open for Jones to take hold of the starting spot.
Obviously, he’s failed to accomplish that objective. Dirk Koetter insists Jones has looked better in practice than during preseason games, but that’s not exactly a high bar. When your longest rush of the preseason is five yards, there’s not much to overcome with your practice performance.
Perhaps the most concerning thing for Buccaneers fans is that Koetter doesn’t seem to know how to get Jones going. He fully admits that he can’t give anyone a “good answer” as to why his rookie running back is struggling so much.
Some observers have speculated that Jones doesn’t have a full grasp of the team’s playbook, but Koetter has emphatically denied any issues with Jones’ mental approach to the game.
In fairness, when you cut on tape of Jones in the preseason, the blocking for him isn’t very good. On several occasions, he was being hit as soon as he touched the football. That doesn’t explain all of his struggles, but the play of his offensive line is a contributing factor.
Even so, Jones is going to need to play much better if he wants to be a factor for the Buccaneers as a rookie. Look for the coaching staff to give him several more opportunities to get on track, but he’ll have to turn his play up several notches to stay in Koetter’s plans.