Who will actually start for the Buccaneers at running back on Sunday?
As anyone who has watched any Tampa Bay Buccaneers games the last two seasons knows, Bruce Arians is not exactly in the Ronald Jones fan club. It doesn’t appear that Arians tries to hide this disdain either.
At nearly every opportunity to do so, Arians removes Jones from the game, whether it be a missed assignment, penalty, or fumble. This is all being done despite the fact that Jones is objectively the best running threat the Bucs have by a long shot.
So, when it is being reported today that Arians has named Jones as the starting running back again this week, one has to wonder if he’s doing it simply to trick the Atlanta Falcons.
At no point has Arians ever shown confidence in Jones, but after winning last week, despite practically removing Jones from the game, why would Arians not just double down on it and start Leonard Fournette? Arians’ word choice also makes little sense.
The word “again” implies Jones started last week, but he didn’t actually play that role last week either.
In all likelihood, it will probably be a repeat of Week 1 against the Cowboys when Jones was also named the starter, then proceeded to not be given starter reps at the beginning of the game, given only four carries in the game itself, and then was benched after his fumble.
Even if it wasn’t his best performance, Fournette, who appears to be Arians’ favorite, made a similar mistake when he was unable to reel in an easy pass from Tom Brady last game, which was then intercepted. After this turnover, Fournette was not punished like Jones, let alone benched.
It’s not obvious if Arians is just uncomfortable with Jones or if maybe there are some personal issues between them, but either way, the chances of Jones being the actual starting running back this Sunday are slim to none, despite whatever Arians is saying.
Based on the fact that Arians should get the benefit of the doubt in these situations, smart money is on him trying to keep the Falcons off balance for this upcoming week, because nothing is certain with this backfield.