Turn Ronald Jones Loose

June 26th, 2021

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He trampled over defenders and skeptics with equal aplomb, yet Ronald Jones has every right to feel a little disrespected at the moment.

It’s all about looking out for No. 1.

Let’s be honest — the upcoming running back duel between Jones and Leonard Fournette is one of the few competitions worth monitoring heading into training camp.

Alex Cappa figures to regain his starting role at right guard after missing the final three games with a fractured ankle. Antonio Brown will once again be listed behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the depth chart.

Safeties Antonio Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead are keeping Mike Edwards waiting for more snaps.

But the running back room is crowded, and different.

Newcomer Giovani Bernard should provide Tom Brady with a proven option as a third-down target out of the backfield. Bruce Arians likes the upside of second-year back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Those are mere sidebars..The real intrigue is the battle between Fournette and Jones for the bulk of the carries.

“Of all the positions, it’s probably the one where those two guys will compete,” Arians says. “They’re both gonna play. They’re so talented and they both bring so much to the table. Hopefully if they’re both healthy, they are splitting time. I know fantasy doesn’t like that.”

The loser of this matchup won’t be thrilled, either.

No one can deny Fournette excelled in the postseason after Jones was slowed by quad and groin injuries. Jones also suffered a fractured pinkie finger that gave Fournette an opportunity to show Buc coaches, teammates and fans what he can do with an expanded role.

He was certainly impressive both running and receiving during Tampa Bay’s championship quest, but Jones is the more effective back when it comes to lugging the football.

That’s a fact.

It’s been rather startling to see Jones’ growth as a Buccaneer. His average of 1.9 yards per carry as a rookie was beyond wretched, leaving Jason Licht unsure whether his second-round pick was a bust. Then came Year 2, when Jones averaged a respectable 4.2 yards. Last season was a revelation as Jones boosted that average gain to 5.1 yards, topped by the league’s longest carry, a 98-yard TD burst at Carolina.

The only backs with more yards and a better average than Jones were Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones and Nick Chubb. In 52 more carries, Ezekiel Elliott finished with one more yard than Jones, who fumbled only twice.

And let’s remember that while Fournette was excelling down the stretch, Jones averaged at least 4.8 yards per carry in two of his three postseason appearances.

“Ronald has really matured since last year … a lot of growth,” running backs coach Todd McNair said at midseason. “He has just blossomed. He’s got a tremendous amount of ability and it’s coming out I don’t even think he knows how good he can be.”

Why take the ball out of his hands now?

You could make a credible argument that It should be Jones’ job to lose. He was that proficient, ranking 10th in rushing yards per game (69.9) while hitting holes decisively and making defenders miss.

One more thing about that 5.1 average — Doug Martin never did that.  Neither did Warrick Dunn, James Wilder or Ricky Bell. Mike Alstott and Cadillac Williams never even came close.

“RoJo is one of the best runners I’ve been around,” Arians says, “and Lenny had that great run in the playoffs. So we’re blessed to have this group of backs, with Ke’Shawn and Gio. It’s a hell of a group.”

Playoff Lenny Fournette is so last season, writes Ira Kaufman.

Yes it is, and Jones should be the headliner. It’s easy to say everyone will share the carries, but the Bucs are a passing team. The 2020 Bucs handed the ball off only 32 percent of the time, with an average of only 20 rushing attempts by the backs.

Arians says this standoff will sort itself out. The top dog in Week 1 could be in the doghouse by Week 5.

“It’s all about who’s doing what for the team,” Derrick Brooks says. “Just like the wide receiver position, can you keep three receivers happy? I think winning can do that.”

Winning certainly helps, but Fournette required a stern lecture from Arians last season to get his mind right. He won’t take kindly if Jones is getting the bulk of the carries.

Boo-freaking’-hoo, Leonard. Get over it. At this point, Jones is the better runner.

Turn him loose.

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Heated running backs debate at the 32:20 mark in this episode of the Ira Kaufman Podcast, presented by Bill Currie Ford.

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37 Responses to “Turn Ronald Jones Loose”

  1. ben Says:

    Jones may be a better runner but Lenny is a more complete back .

  2. gotbbucs Says:

    Fournette was straight garbage last year during the regular season. I’ve made my feelings about him abundantly clear in previous posts.

    Arians has too quick of a hook when it comes to Jones on the field. As soon as he does one little thing that Arians doesn’t deem as suitable he yanks him and puts in lesser talent, and yes, Fournette is lesser talent.

    The running game lives and dies with Ronald Jones. Nobody here should want to see a full season of Leonard Fournette tip toeing to the line of scrimmage and laying down on contact.

    I pray, pray, pray that some of the “running back confused” posters on this site don’t have to find out the hard way what Fournette looks like for a full regular season. I don’t think we will, because inevitably his ineffectiveness will be obvious and they’ll let him pout on the bench just like he did last year.

  3. Youngbucs Says:

    Rojo all day everyday!!!!!!

  4. DoooshLaRue Says:

    If RoJo shines could we maybe trade Lenny?

  5. Defense Rules Says:

    I’m confused Ira. Just yesterday Joe penned “The Bucs can run when they need to. But Ross is right, with their passing game, why the hell would you run?” in his ‘Best All-Around Team’ article. But now it seems like you’re expecting that they’ll run more than just their scant 32% from last season. Do I detect a whiff of dissension within JBF World HQs?

    Actually I’m with you. Almost every NFL defense is just too good for the Bucs to just blow off the run in favor of more & more passing. Great teams use a BALANCED ATTACK. And the Bucs showed that especially in the last 4 games of the regular season AND then in the playoffs.

    In our first 12 games (7-5 record) Bucs rushed for 1,156 total yds (average of 96.3 YPG), then another 363 total yds in their last 4 games (average of 90.8 YPG). Total for the season was 1,519 rushing yds (average of 94.9 YPG).

    But then in our 4 playoff games our rushing attack played a significantly bigger role. Bucs ran for a total of 490 yds in those 4 games (average of 122.5 YPG), quite a bit higher average AND against quality playoff teams with very good defenses.

    And there-in lies the reason why a BALANCED ATTACK is so important IMO. Against average defenses you can often get away with passing more. But against very good defenses with quality DLines, it’s vital to ‘mix it up’ IMO. Become too predictable & a very good defense will have you for lunch.

  6. gp Says:

    It’s a long season and running back is a punishing position.
    How lucky are we to have a top 5(?) as our number one, AND, another number one to back him up, AND, a star receiving back for third downs, AND, a promising talent waiting and learning in the wings!

    On top of all that, we’re a passing team so none of them should get “worn out” through this long season and will be just as productive in the post season.

    It feels good (a welcome change) to be a Bucs fan!

  7. Beeej Says:

    I’d hate to LOSE Rojo, but I’d ALSO like to see him on a team where he was the bell cow like Derrick Henry, and see what the kid is capable of. Henry had 378 carries, Rojo 192

  8. Medicated Pete Says:

    Ira is trolling (which New York writers invented long before social media). Lenny is more complete & better at 3rd & short situations

  9. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Clicking on the ads here helps Joe, so I try to do it often.
    I am so in Love with the Bill Curry Girl, and when I click on her ad, then return here to JBF, she looks like she is giving me 2 thumbs up, for clicking on her ad!
    ROJO is our best running back, Who can forget that 98-yard TD burst at Carolina ?
    Lenny is gonna gain some yards, but I just never get the feeling he is gonna bust one, the way I do with ROJO.

  10. Oneilbuc Says:

    Rojo should be the starter !!!

  11. ModHairKen Says:

    Here’s a simple solution. Rotate starting them each game. Give as many carries as you can to the starter. The next week start the other guy, give him the carries. Use Vaughn and Bernard as backups.

    You can always adjust if one is having a bad day.

    Then you have a fresh back every week. Each guy gets at least 8 starts. They can both hit 1,000.

    Saves egos. Saves wear and tear.

  12. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    There is no question that if we had to keep only one, Rojo or Lenny….Rojo would be the choice….but we don’t. We are very fortunate to have both of them and last year proves it.
    RBs get injured easily….and I’m also very happy to have “low mileage” Keyshawn. Gio is a huge upgrade over Shady.

    Everybody gets a ring….and if we win the SB again….everybody will get another one….that’s what matters.

  13. Defense Rules Says:

    ModHairKen … “Here’s a simple solution. Rotate starting them each game. Give as many carries as you can to the starter. Each guy gets at least 8 starts. They can both hit 1,000.”

    It is a simple solution Ken, BUT … that’s not how coaches play the game IMO. It’s about the HOT HAND, and whoever gets hot running the ball will end up with a lot more carries than the others. And taking that a little further, the one who does the best job of ‘supporting’ Tom Brady as an all-around back will be the one who’s on the field for the most offensive plays.

    Everyone’s ASSUMING that’ll be RoJo or Fournette, but Gio might surprise us all. He’s admittedly the smallest of the four, BUT when it comes to pass protection, designed 3rd-down RB plays and ‘dump-offs’ when needed, he’s probably got the best skillset of the four. It’ll be interesting to see what chemistry Gio & Brady develop.

    And BTW, I doubt that any of our RBs will hit 1,000 yds rushing this year, much less two of them. The Bucs simply don’t run the ball enough for that to happen. RoJo came close last year admittedly, but that was mostly because he got the lion’s share of the carries (192 carries for RoJo, vs 97 for Fournette, 26 for Vaughn and 10 for McCoy … plus 30 for Brady & 9 for Gabbert). So RoJo got significantly more than all the rest COMBINED) but he didn’t quite make 1,000 yds even with a 5.1 YPC average. We’ll see though; anything can happen as we all know.

  14. Darin Says:

    Petey it was invented long before NY newspapers. It aint happening here tho. Gota have an agenda to do that. Would be a waste in this case. Bottom line is whoever Brady wants in will play

  15. DoooshLaRue Says:

    Chris Apple,

    She’s cute but she has a really spooky tooth.

  16. The Daily Coroner Says:

    Ira. Wooof! Wooof! Playoff Lenny better have his rabies vaccination.

  17. Itsqk Says:

    Jones was second in the league in you against stacked boxes. He is the better back and we will see that again this season.

  18. Guzzie Says:

    Rojo is still young got drafted at 20, hes 4 months younger than Vaugh, came in as a 208 pound back, worked hard to be 225, still is fast. 98yrd TD, you better believe he’s working on his receiving ability, the kid is going to blow up, he’s playing for a contract too, he’s dedicated, he’s gonna be a stud

  19. SOEbuc Says:

    I’ve been thinking this is something they need to do this year. They passed the ball 70 percent of the last year with RoJo and Peyton Barber Lenny at one and two. With Bernard now, who “could be” a dominant third down back for Brady, they definitely need to switch it up a bit by eating up yards on the ground. 5.1 yards wasn’t just some stat put together, he can really pound the rock getting through holes, and he was robbed by the Bucs of 1,000 yards. It could be different year two. Everyone will be looking for no GOAT cheese, no triscut with Brady and receivers all day, but if we can gain yards on the ground every week, that’s keeping everyone (the GOAT especially) more fresh. If it doesn’t work out for the better, we can go to the receivers all day, but I’d love to see more of running this year, especially from RoJo in a contract year. Resign him or not, they do owe him that much.

  20. SOEbuc Says:


    Very well said. I’ve been telling myself ever since after the Super Bowl, Lenny is still gonna have to prove himself to me in the regular season year two. People can get Braden Point hot in the playoffs (not that Point isn’t good in the regular season), but Lenny needs show me he is not Dirk Koetter and Doug Martin on first down.

  21. Cobraboy Says:

    I would be happy with a “5.1 yards and a cloud of dust” philosophy.

    Feed all four, like the ‘Fins fed Csonka, Kiick & Morris.

    The best passing offense is a killer run game.

  22. Beeej Says:

    BUT, typical Bob Griese game was like 10-15 for 113 yards. Lol, don’t think the GOAT will settle for that

  23. Cobraboy Says:

    True, but 17-0, baby.

    Brady would go 20-20 for 200 yds., perfect season QBR, no ints., and undefeated ring #8.

    Arians just would have no riskit biscuits on his plate…he’d be eating W’s… 😉

    I want the Buc running game to be so kick0a$$ they force 9 in the box…

  24. Cobraboy Says:

    BTW: Warfield got fed in that ‘Fin offense, too.

    If the Bucs are chasing perfection, they chase *that* ‘Fin team…

    A perfect record is about all Tom Terrific has left to accomplish.

    Great time to be a long-suffering Bucs fan!

  25. gp Says:

    Don’t forget the hat trick
    It may be wishful thinking on my part but as long as we’re talking perfect season, why not?
    I kinda think he would like it if his great great grandchild could say ” My great great grand dad is the GOAT and no one has even been able to come close!”

  26. Cobraboy Says:

    gp: what was the hat trick?

  27. Cobraboy Says:


  28. gp Says:


  29. Bojim Says:

    Give the ball to RoJo!!

  30. Jerry R Jones Says:

    I believe that run percentage will go up, and our RB’s will reap the rewards due to an even more dynamic passing attack.

  31. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    What gotbucs said! Jones is the better back and if they’d give him a chance he would get better receiving. Arians is the biggest reason we lost to Chicago because he took ROJO out even though he was running roughshod all over them. He earned the starting nod this year but once again will probably have to deal with Arians dog house. Just don’t understand how coaches can look at tape and say Fournette is better than Jones, I don’t care what he did in the playoffs because he sure didn’t do it during the season!

  32. Buczilla Says:

    Lenny and Rojo are both above average, but nothing special. Best case scenario would be for Vaughn to rip away the starting job and look like a special back. I don’t see Rojo or Lenny being with us next year unless it’s on a team friendly deal.

  33. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:

    RoJo was very clearly better for most of the year, but then Lenny hit another gear toward the end of the season and in the playoffs. To me, the competition is based on which Lenny are you going to get, as he has a higher ceiling but less consistency. Whoever is better in practice gets the start, and whoever is playing better in the game gets more snaps. Period.

  34. firethecannons Says:

    Playoff Lenny going forward

  35. Topdoggie Says:

    Buczilla 5.1 yards average is not average

  36. SlyPirate Says:

    K.I.S.S.: Feed whoever is hot. Could be Rojo, 4Net, Gio, Vaughn.

  37. RustyRhinos Says:

    Can we never learn to use all three backs in different running game packages, where the GOAT can audible to a different run or pass play within that package for all 4 running backs? We have 4 good RB who all have similar but different skill sets. Let’s make the other team’s Defensive Coordinator and Defense overthink every single play by using them. Week after week, half after half, quarter by quarter, play by play, they do not know what is about to happen. A 17-week schedule is a lot of spreading the ball around thru the air and on the ground, and both feed off each other’s success.
    Bring on training camp!