Bringing The Juice

April 15th, 2021

“G@# damn it, I cannot believe Gio decided to go play for that old fart in Florida. Doesn’t Gio know I have more juice than anyone? Jiminy Christmas!”

The way Ronald Jones and Playoff Lenny performed in 2020, it’s pretty obvious that new Bucs running back Giovani Bernard will be a receiving back only, no?

One former NFL general manager says, not so fast.

Randy Mueller, who used to be a long-time NFL shot-caller for the Seahawks, Saints and Dolphins, now co-hosts a podcast with NFL insider Mike Sando of The Athletic.

Like a lot of former NFL suits, Mueller likes to watch a lot of NFL game film. And he seems to think Bernard is a lot better than most people give him credit for. Mueller told Sando on “The Football GM” podcast that it wouldn’t surprise him if Bernard is the go-to back for the Bucs by the end of the season, which is very odd because 29-year-old Bernard has averaged just 8 1/2 carries per game in his career.

In so many words, Mueller isn’t blown away with RoJo and he has a hunch that Playoff Lenny won’t have the impact he did last year. In fact, Mueller thinks so much of Bernard, he believes the Bucs offense took a step up with the signing of the former Bengals back.

“I think there is definitely a role for him, Mueller said of Bernard with the Bucs. “But I also think in the back of my mind that is a role that could expand quickly. There was a market for him, for Bernard. I know that Seattle was kicking the tires. There were a couple of other teams that were kicking the tires.

“This kid is evasive. He’s got some juice like you say. He is explosive at times. And he can also play in the passing game.”

Joe was under the impression the Bucs got Bernard because Bucs backs struggled in the passing game. Mueller suggests that’s too simple of an observation. In fact, Mueller said Bernard possesses what the Bucs lack: a quick-burst home-run hitter in the backfield.

“I thought, going down the stretch, even though Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl, I thought this position was lacking for them,” Mueller said. “I know Leonard Fournette and they are happy to have him back and all of that. Leonard Fournette got cut by the Jaguars, OK? He had a very little market — not a lot of people after him.

“Even when they were going down the stretch, I remember watching the film and saying, ‘Boy, if this team just had some juice. If they had somebody in the backfield that could go.’ And I just didn’t see it.”

Mueller is lukewarm to RoJo, thinking he is too inconsistent.

“I saw that Ronald — the kid from USC — when he would get in there, there was a little more juice,” Mueller said. “I just do not see Fournette with a lot of make-you-miss ability or getting north and south fast. He gets downhill a little bit but never played, in my opinion even last year, to his potential.”

It seems to Joe that Mueller is not a fan of a plodding running back who just moves the chains, which the Bucs seem to be built for.

“I think a guy like Bernard can be attractive,” Mueller added. “I think Bruce Arians is going to find that this guy can do more than he thinks, if he can stay healthy. I think he has the skillset to set that offense up a step above what they were last year. So I thought it was a really good signing.”

What interests Joe is hearing Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil Simms say back in February the Bucs had the perfect offensive line and perfect backs to grind out four- and five-yard runs and chew up the clock. Apparently, Mueller is no fan of such a meat-grinding running attack.

Joe’s only quibble with RoJo is that, unlike Playoff Lenny, when RoJo broke free running off tackle or outside, he rarely housed it from 20 or 30 yards out (yes, Joe is aware of his 98-yard score at Carolina last year). Playoff Lenny has several of these types of 20- to 30-yard touchdown runs, including in the playoffs and Super Bowl.

Joe will have to watch more games of Bernard with the Bengals to get a better idea of what kind of a back he is. It sounds from Mueller that Bernard gives the Bucs diversity with speed at running back.

The way Mueller talked about the Bucs’ run game, with Playoff Lenny, RoJo and Bernard all on contracts that expire after the 2021 season, maybe it isn’t too far-fetched to think the Bucs draft a running back at No. 32?

34 Responses to “Bringing The Juice”

  1. Defense Rules Says:

    Was totally with you Joe UNTIL that very last question. Drafting a RB at #32 makes no sense. Drafting a DT, DE or OLB at #32 to learn from Suh & JPP (both FAs in 2022) makes perfect sense. Drafting a QB at #32 to learn from Brady (turning 97 next year) makes perfect sense. Drafting a CB or Safety or even a LB at #32 to add some depth makes perfect sense. Heck, drafting a Center or a Tackle or even a Guard at #32 makes sense just to keep some ‘new blood’ flowing into our OLine makes sense.

    But drafting a RB to sit behind RoJo, Fournette & Bernard seems to say that the Bucs have already given up on Vaughn (something tells me it’s doubtful we’d carry 5 RBs on the roster). Nah, focus on DEFENSE to learn from some of our ancient warriors.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Two things:
    I am not sure if ROJO was at 100 % after getting covid and his progress seemed to slow down. Still believe he has the juice to break big plays. He still needs to
    improve in other facets of the game, especially pass catching.
    The increased use of the heavy line in the running game late in the season
    benefitted Fournette a great deal down the stretch. He does have better
    hands than ROJO but the team sill felt the need to improve pass catching out of the backfield.

  3. windbaggery Says:

    Joe says, “maybe it isn’t too far-fetched to think the Bucs draft a running back at No. 32?”

    Why would they draft a RB at #32? To do so they’d have to unload one of the guys they’ve got — Rojo, Lenny, Gio, Vaughn — or carry 5 RBs? Is any of that likely? I can’t say that makes any sense.

  4. Bucsfanman Says:

    They are either not completely satisfied with their backfield or simply wanted more weapons.
    Either way, these backs should be pushing each other. This benefits all, IMO.

  5. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Agree with DR that % RB’s seems like a lot. In Vaughn case,he really hasn’t had a lot of touches to show much. Is it possible that one of the RB’s may be used in the return game?

  6. Adamant Says:

    Bernard clearly fills the role vacated by Shady McCoy, simple as that.

  7. Allbuccedup Says:

    If Rondale Moore is available at pick 32 a 4.29 40 and 41 inch vertical wide receiver/returner pull the trigger. Speed, Speed, Speed.

  8. AlabamaBucsFan Says:

    ROJO most likely lost a little “juice” when he added 20lbs of weight during the offseason.

  9. TB33 Says:

    Bernard is a perfect 3rd down RB. His pass catching skills have always been one of his biggest assets. We haven’t had a pass catching back like him in awhile. He was a huge upgrade for this team that will open up our offense on 3rd downs and in 2 minute drills. He may even be top 3-4 on the team in catches. I would not be surprised at all.

  10. Jason Says:

    I get the feeling Rojo is spending the off-season sleeping with his Juggs machine. All he’s done is improve each year.

  11. Buc59$ Says:

    Aint happening at 32

  12. Cobraboy Says:

    I don’t see how anyone could watch the Bucs and say Jones doesn’t have juice.

    Even if you discount that 98 yd. blast, he still averaged 4.6 YPC on a team focused on the passing game.

    Jones stats aren’t a whole lot different than Kamara’s stats, and I doubt many would say Kamara doesn’t have mega juice.

    We have seen Jones morph from a timid RB as a rook to a guy who runs with angry abandon.

  13. The Daily Coroner Says:

    Yep. Loaded at RB. So if Travis Etienne is available at #32 you pass even though RoJo and Playoff Lenny are on one year contracts?

  14. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    “…Bernard clearly fills the role vacated by Shady McCoy, simple as that.”

    Sitting on the bench?

  15. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    “…Jones stats aren’t a whole lot different than Kamara’s stats…”

    I love your takes, but not so much on this one. Not a good comparison. Yes, in some things Rojo / Kamara are similar. But where there is a major difference is:

    Kam: 731 YAC, w/ 16 BrkTkls , 8.8 YAC/Rec
    Rojo: 157 YAC, w/ 1 BrkTkl. 5.6 YAC/Rec

    In fairness, Kam had 2.5 times as many targets as Rojo, but IMO, that is bc Kam is a beast in the open field and has a 78% catch rate. Rojo is not as much of a threat as he needs to focus on catching the ball (67% catch rate)

  16. Ash Says:

    I highly doubt they draft a running back at 32 would be shocked if they did even if joes crush is there which I doubt he will be OL OR ED seems way more likely if they stay at 32 and makes the most sense.

  17. PSL Bob Says:

    I haven’t given up on Rojo and we haven’t even given Keyshawn a fair shake to see what he can do. With the addition of Giovani, I see no reason to draft a RB. Load up on O-line and D-line depth and grab a developmental QB in this year’s draft.

  18. Buc50 Says:

    I’m all in on ROJO. I thought he has some quality runs outside of the 98 yarder.

  19. Swampbuc Says:

    Mueller? Mueller? Mueller?


  20. 813bucboi Says:

    trade down and stack the trenches…

    GO BUCS!!!!

  21. Joe Says:

    So if Travis Etienne is available at #32 you pass even though RoJo and Playoff Lenny are on one year contracts?

    And Gio. Your three top running backs have contracts that expire after this season. So if all leave, the Bucs are then looking at Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the No. 1 back. Joe’s not throwing in the towel at all on Vaughn but he’s got a whole lot more to show before Joe would knight him as a No. 1 back.

  22. Adamant Says:

    “Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:
    April 15th, 2021 at 8:14 am
    “…Bernard clearly fills the role vacated by Shady McCoy, simple as that.”

    Sitting on the bench?”

    Yes. Possible rotations into the lineup. Good emergency backup with experience at a low cost.

  23. Cobraboy Says:

    @Senior Harry: Joe’s blurb was about rushing and not receiving. My comp with Kamara was based on that single metric.

    IMO, Jones is a Top 10 ball carrier in the NFL. Top 10 overall back, rushing, receiving, and blocking? No. But he does have “juice” toting the rock.

  24. Cobraboy Says:

    @Joe: I would suspect at leadt one of the three backs on 1-year deals will stay. I am not worried about Vaughn as the only returning RB in 2022.

  25. Joe Says:

    @Joe: I would suspect at leadt one of the three backs on 1-year deals will stay.

    Possibly but there is no guarantee. Gio and Playoff Lenny are likely going to look to be paid. RoJo might get an offer to be a full-time No. 1 back.

  26. Buczilla Says:

    Man I love getting running backs, but I don’t think that we need one at 32. Every one that we have outside of Vaughn (unproven) has shown that he is at least slightly above average. Put em all together and I think that it equals a good rushing/receiving attack since Lenny is at least decent at catching. I’d be tempted though if Najee was there at 32 and was the highest rated dude on our board since I don’t see anyone outside of Vaughn and Gio coming back next year.

  27. Pickgrin Says:

    Bucs have 4 talented RBs coming into this year.

    All 4 have the talent to be ‘starting’ RBs in this league.

    2 are playing for “starting RB” contracts next year….

    Competition breeds excellence

    Vaughn and especially Bernard have the pass catching ability that can take the Buccaneer offense to a whole nother level if utilized properly and at the right times.

    I think it will be a ‘run by committee’ approach in 2021 – and that all 4 backs will get their chances to shine in games throughout the year.

    I do expect at least initially that the game rotation will be Rojo – RB1, Lenny – RB2 and Bernard will get most of his snaps on 3rd and obvious passing downs.
    Vaughn will be sprinkled in – and if any back develops the “hot hand” in a game – they will be ridden as long as they are getting those good results.

  28. TOM Says:

    DO NOT draft a running back with first pick. OL, DL, EDGE, QB, LB, CB.

  29. TOM Says:

    I forgot to mention trade down.

  30. 813bucboi Says:

    will the bucs keep 5 RBs if they draft Travis Etienne?….

    GO BUCS!!!

  31. Bucs GM Says:

    Screw Gruden

  32. BucEmUp Says:

    Gio will be the obvious third and long back, with all three of them contributing in the run and pass game on first and second downs. Lenny and rojo will be in on 3rd and short

  33. JeffreyLane77 Says:

    I can’t see a situation where Licht drafts a running back at 32. Everybody knows we have 4 legit backs already. Having said that I would like to see some two back sets. Play action on 3rd and short with Rojo or Fournette with Giovanni Bernard would keep defenses guessing.

    If Licht does draft a running back at 32 that guy better be able to take over a game and have the ability to score on any play. I would expect best oline or dline available. Or even a CB.

  34. lambchop Says:

    Jon Gruden STILL can’t draft, even with Mike Mayock.