At first glance, the battle at running back for training camp, and preseason this year, would appear already set in stone. The truth of the matter is this that if ROJO outplays incumbent Peyton Barber through the preseason up to the start of the regular season, he will more than likely be the number 1 guy. Nobody’s position is safe, the best player will get the chunk of the carries, the rest will get what they can of the scraps. That’s not to say that Barber would have to muff it up pretty good to lose the job because he would have to do that as well as Jones outplaying him.
Expecting a turnaround in the 2nd round pick from SoCal.
As we all are aware, ROJO was drafted out of USC in the second round of last year’s draft. In three years at USC, he amassed 3,619 yards to go along with 39 TDs on the ground. He added only 3 receiving scores in that same period of time. In his rookie year, though, as a Buc, it’s easy to say that the kid running out on the field during timeouts, commercial breaks, and what have you with the bottles of Gatorade, accumulated more rushing yards on the field than ROJO did. Somewhere during his introduction to the NFL, and professional football, Jones lost confidence in himself and his abilities. Mentally taking himself out of the picture for playing time early on. His stats, 23 carries for 44 yards and one touchdown, are not exactly the kind of numbers Licht was looking for when he jumped out there and grabbed him in 2018. It’s worth noting that the coaching staff that was here last year, weren’t exactly on fire in the teaching and development department. They knew darn well the offense wouldn’t be running the ball much.
New staff, New day
Enter Bruce Arians, Byron Leftwich, and running backs coach Todd McNair.
Jones is gaining confidence and added 13-15 lbs of what appears to be straight muscle. He is looking more like the back that excelled at Southern Cal. I’m sure that the presence of the new staff, one that actually teaches and coaches players, had a hand in his turnaround. So this year will be the competition for that position, that should have taken place last year. All I can say is better late than never.
Who will Barber share carries with?
Assuming Peyton Barber holds onto his starting job, there will be roughly 25-35% of the running plays available to backs not named Peyton. One would expect ROJO to grab the majority of those plays if he stays on track. But, not so fast. Andre Ellington was brought in by Arians this offseason and is a guy that played for him in Arizona. He may be the best receiving back on the team. Ellington, who had not played football since 2017, should have fresh legs this year. And then there is Undrafted Free Agent Bruce Anderson. Anderson has been compared to David Johnson with the way he runs the ball and he had a pretty solid career at North Dakota State. During his 4 seasons with North Dakota State, he recorded 2,896 yards and 24 TDs on 486 carries. Anderson can also make plays when catching the football out the backfield as he had shown at NDSU with 32 receptions for 448 yards and 7 TDs.
Past Barber, it’s anybody’s guess really
To sum it all up.
After Peyton Barber, all bets are off. Any one of the three understudies could break out and become the favored number 2 guy, or a combination of the same, with Ellington, possibly getting the call for a change of pace and passing situations. When you think about it, there is a battle at RB for playing time, and it’s wide open. It’s worth keeping an eye on, as anything could transpire.