The Buccaneers finally know who their RB1 is.
The run game for the Buccaneers was terrible to start the season. Having any games where Tom Brady is your leading rushers is outright embarrassing but somewhat impressive in other regards.
Tampa wasn’t able to create any semblance of consistency on the ground when it mattered, and while the run game wasn’t the reason the Bucs weren’t playing up to their full potential, it did take away one dimension from the offense.
Now, an offense that just features Tom Brady throwing the football is far from a bad strategy, but it still helps to have a run game to use every once in a while as a change of tempo. The Bucs couldn’t employ this strategy with the question marks at running back, but Leonard Fournette solved that problem in a huge way.
Fournette has been one of the best running backs in the NFL over the past two weeks and has firmly established himself as the RB1 in Tampa. The Buccaneer running back has 32 carries for 159 yards, seven receptions for 90 yards, and two touchdowns over the last two weeks.
4.9 yards per carry and 12.8 yards per reception is a great way to establish yourself as the featured back moving forward, and the emergence of “Playoff Lenny” in the regular season is a welcome addition to the best offense in football.
The Buccaneers have a versatile and reliable back in the regular season for the first time in many years. The playoffs with Fournette last season showed the world how great Tampa’s offense looked with a slightly competent run game, and now the Bucs are in a great position to show it off in the regular season on their path to another Super Bowl.
It’s not easy to say, but this at least answers one part of the Ronald Jones question going forward. Jones is clearly not living in the coaching staff’s good graces, and so few touches in the games tell us everything else we need to know.
What the Bucs do with Jones remains to be seen, but it becomes more clear by the day that Jones is done in Tampa after this season. RoJo as a trade option is starting to become a more popular idea by the day with the emergence of Fournette and the desire to recoup some capital before he walks for free, but he is still a good back to have on the roster in the event of an injury.
Fortunately for Tampa, the running back free-agent market is very deep, and Jones’ current role wouldn’t be hard for Ke’Shawn Vaughn to step into if the Bucs did decide to pull the trigger on moving Jones.
One way or another, Leonard Fournette is the guy moving forward, and Tampa’s run game will continue to look great for as long as their RB1 keeps up this performance.
The season featured a slow start, but Fournette is still within range of the magical 1,000-yard season if he keeps this up.
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