Ronald Jones Proving His Worth To Surging Buccaneers Offense

Ronald Jones Proving His Worth To Surging Buccaneers Offense

TAMPA, Fla.: Ronald Jones may be the least heralded component of the success of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ star-filled offense, but the third-year running back is also emerging as one of the most important.

While Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski garner far more attention as playmakers at Tom Bradys disposal, Jones is proving his worth as one on the NFLs leading rushers entering Week 11.

Hes on pace to become Tampa Bays first 1,000-yard rusher since 2015, and he’s playing so well that better-known, more accomplished backups Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy remain role players for the Bucs (7-3), who host the Los Angeles Rams (6-3) on Monday night.

You talk about their runners, I think Jones and Fournette are as good a tandem as youre going to find, Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said. I think those guys are really an engine for this offense.

Jones, a second-round draft pick out of USC in 2018, is coming off a career-best 192-yard rushing performance in Tampa Bays 46-23 rout of Carolina last week. The highlight was a 98-yard scoring burst that was one of the four longest touchdown runs in NFL history.

Derrick Henry, Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett and Ahman Green are the only other players who have runs of at least 98 yards.

Once the play snapped, I saw a gap. … All of a sudden, youve got one guy to beat. I knew it was going to be a footrace, Jones, a track sprinter in high school, said.

I just had to look up at the Jumbotron to see where the rest of the defense was going to be and change angles, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound runner added. It was a track meet like the good old fashioned days.

With 730 yards rushing through 10 games, Jones has already surpassed his total from all of last season and nearly doubled his run production for his first two pro seasons combined.

Jones, 23, played sparingly as a rookie, gaining 44 yards on 23 carries, before rushing for 724 yards and six TDs as a part-time starter last season coach Bruce Arians first with the Bucs.

The credit goes to him. Hes really matured since last year when we first came in, running backs coach Todd McNair said.

Hes shown a lot of maturity, a lot of growth, McNair added. People forget how young he was, even coming in last year. He hadnt really played the year before, so he was like a rookie and hes rookie age. So, a year in the system and I think the offensive coaches sticking with him, giving him a lot of positive reinforcement, I think hes just blossomed.

Arians isnt surprised.

Even though the Bucs signed McCoy as a free agent early in training camp and added Fournette after Jacksonville surprisingly released him just before the season began, the coach insisted all along that Jones was his guy.

He reiterated that by sticking with the third-year pro after Jones lost a fumble against the Giants three weeks ago. He did it again last Sunday, when Jones lost a fumble on a reception on the second play of the game against Carolina.

Arians was the first to greet him on the sideline.

When he had the miscue in New York, it really put him in the tank because he thought he let the team down. We talked a lot about that: One play doesnt change games, said Arians, who notes Jones was just 20 years old when he was drafted.

When he came to the sideline it was all encouragement, the coach added, and I really liked the way he bounced back and had a hell of a ballgame.

Jones, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry in three seasons at USC, appreciates the support hes received from Arians.

He just said, Let it go. The teams going to need you, so you got to get back out there. Thats what I did, Jones said. Good play, bad play, you just have to forget about it, and thats what happened.

McNair said Jones is beginning to get a better understanding of the running game, blocking schemes and what it takes to be successful.

I dont even think Ro understands how good he could be. He does stuff by accident, and its like, Whoa. He probably cant tell you what he did when he gets back to the sideline, but hes got a tremendous amount of ability in his body, the running backs coach said.

Hes so unassuming of a person, so I think all that stuff is just starting to click with the age and the maturity, McNair added. Hes starting to see what he can truly become.

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