Arguably one of the biggest off-season moves for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the hiring of Bruce Arians. In order to right the ship in 2019, several players will need to produce at a high level this upcoming season.
Over the next few days, the writing staff at Full Press Coverage Buccaneers will be highlighting which players need to become “X-Factors” in 2019, starting with Ronald Jones II.
The 2018 season was one to forget in regards to Ronald Jones II. It wasn’t just bad, it was abysmal. For a player drafted with the 38th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, 1.9 yards per carry just won’t cut it. Lets take a look at last season and see how Jones can improve his play for 2019.
2018 Season Recap
While Ronald Jones II often lacked the vision to find the open hole, the offensive line did him no favors. He was often hit from behind the line of scrimmage resulting in a loss of yardage. There isn’t much you can do when the opposing defense is getting in your backfield on more than 70% of your carries.
While this is a clip from week four of the preseason, Jones’ performance wasn’t much different in the regular season. In his nine games, Jones carried the ball 23 times for 44 yards and a touchdown. Even with an open hole, Jones’ vision was sub-par at best, often choosing to run straight up the field instead of cutting into the open lane.
One of the biggest knocks on Jones was his inability to catch the football, and it showed in training camp and during the season.
These are catches you have to make if you want to make an impact for your team. So how can Ronald Jones II shake off last season and produce up to expectations?
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The offensive line needs to improve for Jones to elevate his game, especially at right guard and tackle. Some may point to Peyton Barber and his 3.7 yards per carry, but he is just an average back. This is not a knock on Barber, as he consistently churns for extra yards and puts in maximum effort.
But he is not the type of player that will break huge runs or create mismatches in the passing game. We saw from his play at USC that Ronald Jones II can break long runs for touchdowns and created headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. So what is stopping this from happening in the Pros?
The offensive line.
Caleb Benenoch was a liability at right guard, and I see him possibly shifting to tackle as a backup. Frankly, I would not be surprised if Benenoch isn’t even on the roster come week one. Bruce Arians even mentioned Demar Dotson declining as a run blocker as he ages.
To put it bluntly, the right side of the line is a mess. The added competition of Earl Watford and Alex Cappa should provide some relief, but will it be enough? You obviously can’t run to one side of the field on every play, so how can you maximize the strengths of the offensive line to increase run blocking efficiency?
While Dirk Koetter succeeded in the passing game, he failed to improve the running game. Jason Licht signed and drafted big, in your face, type of offensive lineman, with a strength in man running schemes. Koetter and Todd Monken would often utilize zone running schemes, which played to the weakness of the offensive line.
I don’t blame the previous coaching staff for using a zone run style either, as Jones excelled in this scheme while at USC. But you’re only as good as your offensive line.
I can see Bruce Arians getting creative with the running game, playing to the strengths of the line specifically. He is a master at evolving his scheme to fit his players, saying this at his introductory press conference; “People want to know what’s your system? Your system’s your players.”. We saw this when Arians was the head coach in Arizona, utilizing David Johnson in the passing game to fit his strength as a receiver by lining up in the slot.
Jones succeeded at USC by running downhill, and exploding through the second level.
I think Arians will use this to his advantage.
If Ronald Jones wants to see significant playing time, he has to improve as a receiver. Jones was not known as a pass catcher in college, but dropping easy check downs and wheel routes are not acceptable. Sure there are good running backs, such as Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette, who rarely contribute in the passing game. But if Jones wants to be a true three-down back, he needs to improve his play as a receiver. Jones has the potential, and hopefully, we’ll see plays like the one below in 2019:
The Bucs need to improve their run game. Period. Tampa Bay ranked 29th in rushing in 2018, and it would be even lower if it not for Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick combining for 28% of the total yardage.
But I’ll leave you with this. I mentioned that Dirk Koetter has been poor in getting the most out of his running backs. In 2014, Koetter’s last year in Atlanta, Devonta Freeman totaled 473 yards. The year after Koetter’s departure, Freeman exploded for 1634 all-purpose yards.
Ronald Jones II has the talent to succeed in the NFL, can he bounce back in 2019?
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