Buccaneers: 2021 running back competition camp preview

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Buccaneers have three consistent backs to lean on in 2021, but only one can be the RB1.

Training camp is still a few weeks away, but there are plenty of storylines to follow regarding the Buccaneers in the meantime. The running back room may garner the most interest in the coming weeks as one of the few positions without a solidified depth chart, and there will be fierce competition to emerge as the top guy in that unit.

You can make a valid case for Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, and Giovanni Bernard to earn the lion’s share of the touches.

The Buccaneers have three options to serve as the lead man

Jones was the best back on the roster last season. As a runner, Jones showed excellent vision in the backfield, lateral quickness to make the most of all exposed gaps, and impressive speed that he was known for in college.

On the other hand, Jones was less than stellar as a pass-catcher. The third-year back regressed from his 2019 levels on this front, and he will need to see a considerable improvement on this level to solidify his status as the RB1.

Fournette was the main man during the playoffs and should get an extra look from the staff based on those performances alone. Playoff Lenny did it all when it mattered most despite not being the runner that Jones is or the receiver that Bernard is.

The biggest selling point for Fournette is his ability to do everything above the average, which could sway Bruce Arians and his coaching staff in his direction as the starter.

Finally, Giovanni Bernard brings the one thing the offense needs the most; hands. In an offense led by Tom Brady, you need to have a running back that can catch and make the most of a high volume of passes, and Bernard is the guy to do that.

Bernard is nothing to write home about as a runner, but the Bucs are much better when they rely on the pass more anyways, which would allow Bernard to pop as a receiver and in pass protection.

In the end, you can make a case for any of these backs to be the lead guy. The depth chart order could and probably should change on a weekly basis to accommodate the game plan, but Jones is still the wild card from a project standpoint.

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If RoJo can show up to camp and run the ball constantly, keep the drops to a minimum, and block well, he has the upside to be a true lead man even in a running back by committee approach.

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