Bruce Arians benched running back Ronald Jones and gave Peyton Barber all of the carries for the Buccaneers after a missed blitz pick-up.
Once again we find ourselves scratching our heads when it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back situation. It sure seemed like second year running back Ronald Jones was separating himself from Peyton Barber to cement himself as the RB1. Boy was that far from the truth after what we saw on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars when Jones was benched for Barber.
News came out today via pro football focus that Ronald Jones was benched for a majority of the game due to pass blocking issues. Jones has been quiet through the first half of the game (six carries for eight yards) and it didn’t help that Barber had already scored a TD. In the third quarter Jones was responsible for blowing a pass coverage when Jags corner, DJ Hayden blitzed and forced a fumble on Jameis Winston.
That snap would end up being the last of the game for Jones. Head Coach Bruce Arians was asked about the benching and was quoted saying:
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"“That was a fumble. We had the game in-hand. It was something that had been switched. We were gonna block something because of their blitzes. He went to block the guy he used to block. That wasn’t the plan” (Jenna Laine via ESPN)."
Arians clearly has Jones on a very short leash and one I think needs to be a bit longer.
Jones is a former second overall pick and has shown to be a more than capable running back in the league after a brutal rookie season. Arians stated that, “you can’t run the football if you can’t protect the quarterback.” While we would love to see more of Ronald Jones over Peyton Barber he must improve his blocking abilities for that to happen.
Barber clearly isn’t the answer after getting a bulk of the snaps and totaling 17 carries for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t be blinded by the two scores. Barber had a 15 yard touchdown, so take away that one rush and he has 16 carries for 29 yards.
I don’t think this is the end of Ronald Jones and I’d expect him to get work moving forward. I’m in the mindset that Arians benches younger players who make crucial mistakes to send a message. We have seen guys like O.J. Howard get benched to then come into the next game and perform well.
For those concerned about his fantasy value moving forward I would proceed with caution. The upcoming matchups for the Bucs are great for running backs but this backfield is a toss up week in and week out. For now let’s be happy with getting a win and hope the offense stays hot.