Real & Revitalized

September 27th, 2019

“The Sage” delivers in his thrice-weekly column.

BY IRA KAUFMAN columnist

Presented By 

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There’s something happening in the Buccaneer backfield, a development that augurs well for the upcoming matchup against the Rams and the rest of the 2019 season.

The ground game looks good.

This is big news, coming after three years of a pass-happy offense that featured little balance. Opposing defenses didn’t respect Jameis Winston’s play-action because the Bucs hadn’t established a credible running attack.

Enter a new coaching staff and a renewed emphasis on providing Winston with a complementary run game.

Tampa Bay currently boasts the No. 8 rushing attack in the league, a far cry from the ineffective ground game Buc fans have decried since 2015, when Doug Martin and Charles Sims were running wild with Dirk Koetter calling the plays as coordinator.

The Bucs may be 1-2 heading to Los Angeles, but they appear well grounded. Give run-game coordinator Harold Goodwin props for developing an aspect of the game that has underperformed since Koetter was elevated to head coach.

Ira Kaufman says the offensive line has “grown a pair” this season

But most of the credit has to go to the players, the ones who either move the line of scrimmage or capitalize on open running lanes.

An offensive line that has been heavily criticized for poor run blocking has grown a pair. Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa and Demar Dotson are showing more physicality, which isn’t a bad idea when a gladiator like Aaron Donald is waiting for you at the Coliseum.

And there’s more.

Bruce Arians has repeatedly praised Chris Godwin for contributing to the ground success with stout blocking downfield. Tight ends have also played a critical role and don’t be shocked if the Bucs run right at Donald on Sunday in an effort to wear him down.

RoJo mojo

How about the guys lugging the football?

Hype Justified

Through three weeks, the Bucs have two players who rank among the league’s Top 20 rushers. Let that sink in for a moment. If Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber both finish the season in the Top 20, everyone involved deserves a bow.

Jones has been a revelation. He looks like one of the NFL’s most improved players and his confidence is growing each week. After a rookie year that couldn’t have gone any worse, Jones is averaging 5.3 yards on his 31 carries. Guess who is also averaging 5.3 yards so far this season? Yes, Ezekiel Elliott.

And while nobody is comparing Jones to the Cowboys star, Jones is breaking tackles and displaying a vision that was sorely lacking in 2018. He ran 13 times for 75 yards against the 49ers in the season opener and just ripped the Giants for 80 yards in 14 carries, adding a 41-yard reception.

There’s every indication Jones will single-handedly return the screen pass to the Buc playbook. He is living up to the hype Buc fans heard about during training camp, rewarding the faith of coaches who guaranteed Buc fans would see a different Ronald Jones.

Barber’s average of 3.7 yards per carry is the same as his 2018 average. He led the way on the ground in the victory at Charlotte and if his workload is eclipsed by Jones, that will say more about Jones’ ascension than Barber’s deficiencies.

Derrick Brooks, who has never been accused of hyperbole, says he is impressed with Jones’ growth in all facets, including his improvement as a pass blocker. Jones should get plenty of touches against the Rams, who feature a stout defense but yielded 128 rushing yards to Christian McCaffrey in Week 1.

This revitalized ground game should give the Bucs confidence they can compete in the trenches against the defending NFC champions.

Led by Jensen, the interior of Tampa Bay’s offensive line is playing winning football.

Everyone else needs to climb aboard.



16 Responses to “Real & Revitalized”

  1. BucEmUp Says:

    How about not shutting all systems down in the second half. They better play like this is the last gane of their life

  2. Bob in Valrico Says:

    That screen pass was a thing of beauty. We should have more of them. Good for RoJo ,he came back with a bang this year.

    Thanks to improved coaching and an improved blocking scheme the O line is doing a much better job of getting to the next level and extending plays.

  3. Bob in Valrico Says:

    AND for DR,
    Trevor S. wrote a good article over at PEWT. REP. on the playcalling in the second half. He agreed with you on too many consecutive running plays.

  4. BucsFanSince1976 Says:

    The reason this game will be closer than the 9 point spread is Ndamakong Suh. Suh’s knowledge of the Rams Oline is intimate . Suh will pass along all the little traits and tendencies of that Oline to every Dline counterpart he has. This will result in more pressure than Goff has faced all season. Goff when throwing under pressure is erratic and inaccurate , Bucs will get 2 interceptions.
    Focal point for Bucs should be running the ball as the Rams have shown some susceptibility to the running game. Rams do not have to have this game , but the Bucs do considering their impending the NFL hates the Bucs scheduling. Late TD wins it 31-27 Bucs and all sins are forgiven.

  5. Todd Says:

    Great article Ira.

  6. LJS4th Says:

    I want to see more Rojo and less Barber. 3rd and 2 in the fourth quarter they take out Rojo who was gashing the Giants D and put in Barber who gained one yard and instead of a touchdown we kick a field goal. We lost 4 points that would have put us up by two scores. Leave Rojo in.

  7. Ghost of Darrell Henderson Says:

    “Led by Jensen, the interior of Tampa Bay’s offensive line is playing winning football.”

    Is Jensen even playing Sunday?

  8. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Rojo is looking better…..Cappa is looking better… if we can get a bit more improvement from Carlton Davis & MJ Stewart……Licht’s picks will be looking better. (We can add Gay to that list)…..needs to improve immediately.

  9. AwShbucs Says:

    MJ Stewart will reach his ceiling as a back up linebacker and special teams player. In maybe 3 years…

    As a 2nd round DB… hes a a bust through and through. Just flat out lacks the wheels required to cover anyone.

  10. AwShbucs Says:

    As for Rojo. I must have been one of the few people worried about him after a severely lackluster rookie year.

    The kid was an absolute monster at USC and has physical tools out the yinyang. He just needed to get his mind and body right for the this league. Which he did in spades this offseason. And I expect him to continue to get better and better every game. Provided the oline maintains it’s current level of physicality.

  11. Rayjay1122 Says:

    Hopefully ROJO who should be very comfortable playing in California will tear up the Rams defense. The Rams are tough against the pass and a nice rushing attack will be critical Sunday.

    I was and still am pretty bent out of shape over the loss Sunday but jere is a positive observation. Nobody really beat the Bucs so far. The Bucs beat themselves twice and we should be 3-0. If we can stop being stupid and beating ourselves then there may be hope.

  12. stpetebucsfan Says:


    Love your optimism and like you I’ve almost recovered from Sunday.

    Here is what still scares me. Your line says it…

    “If we can stop being stupid and beating ourselves then there may be hope.”

    That’s classic Buc ball! Let’s hope BA can change the culture.
    Only three games in…so I’m for giving him a chance to turn this around. Our schedule the second half of the season is easier than the first…it’s a young team with lots of new faces coaching and playing they should get better.

    But I am a proud American and you know what we demand…
    Instant Gratification.

  13. Barbosa Says:

    If this trend continues Ira, then good things are ahead for our team. Winning the trenches is the way to go!

  14. Billy_43 Says:

    Just sick to my stomach that he came off the field AT ALL on his personal drive. That dude was gonna get into the end zone.

    Missed a great opportunity for a play action pass or another screen to Rojo when in comes Barber for his no gain rush.

    CANNOT believe that BL is already acting like a 60 year old offensive coordinator out there in the 2nd half with a big lead.

    Where is the reverse to Perriman again.
    So Vanilla it was hard to watch.

    If Rojo doesn’t start I’m convinced this staff is too Hard Headed,

  15. Buccano19 Says:

    Man, the fact that Barber’s average is the same as last year’s average and his career average with basically the same linemen blocking for him says the difference in the bucs improved rushing this year is 100% Jones not necessarily “improved” run blocking.

  16. Buczilla Says:

    Nice article.