The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ run game in 2019 struggled in part due to the fact that neither running back could find their stride because of substitutions.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled to run the football since 2015 when Doug Martin was on another one of his “on” years where he was next to unstoppable. Since this time, the Buccaneers have longed for a running back that can serve as a replacement to no avail.
Peyton Barber has performed admirably in his time as a Buccaneer. Barber spent 2016 and 2017 learning the offense and biding his time before taking over starting duties in 2018 where he rushed for 871 yards and five touchdowns on 234 carries.
While he has been consistent, Peyton Barber has been anything but explosive. The Buccaneer run game lacked an explosiveness under Barber that made the rush more one-dimensional. Runs were almost exclusively called between the tackles and rarely broke for more than three or four yards.
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The Buccaneers drafted college stud Ronald Jones around the same time that Barber took over the starting duties. Many fans and the organization alike had big plans for Jones’ rookie season but he mostly ended up hurt or on the bench while Barber continued on with 3.7 yards per carry.
Despite his rough rookie year, Jones stepped up in the offseason and came into 2019 as a far more complete player. Jones’ cuts looked sharper, his hands looked more secure, and his confidence seemed far higher than his rookie stats would indicate.
Jones was able to post 75 yards for 5.8 yards per carry in the season debut against the San Francisco 49ers despite not being the starter. This began a gradual shift towards Jones taking over the starting role from Barber.
It took far too long, but eventually Rojo took over the starting job and earned nine starts in his sophomore season. Jones was able to prove that he could maintain his impressive level of play and elevate the Bucs’ run game to greater heights.
Even though the rushing attack was far more potent under Jones, Bruce Arians continued to give unnecessary snaps to Peyton Barber which mostly only served to kill the momentum that Jones was able to generate.
Arians seemed to immediately take away snaps from Jones as soon as he missed a single block or fumbled the football. The transition to Barber seemed to kill Rojo’s confidence and it was rarely a seamless transition between the backs.
The best chance for the Buccaneers to find success in the run game is to give Jones around 20 touches or more a game. With a minimal workload in 2019 Rojo was still able to put up over 1,000 scrimmage yards as he was a viable pass-catcher as well.
The Bucs will not be able to reach this 20 touch per game mark for Jones if Peyton Barber is still lurking in the shadows. The shared duties in the backfield is a novel idea if a team doesn’t have a back that is diverse, but Ronald Jones is a complete running back that can take 20+ touches a game and make big time catches on third down.
At the very least, Tampa Bay does have to utilize Ronald Jones more in 2020 as a means to evaluate the talent they have on their roster. The Bucs may not have to use a draft pick now on a running back if they think Jones is the guy for the future, but it would be in their best interest to figure out what they have talent-wise and the best way to do this is in game situations.