July 29, 2021

Bucs Life

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Is it the running backs or is it the system?

4 min read

Image Credit: Cliff Welch | Cliff Welch Photography | Pewter Report

Early signs of talent

Ever since training camp and then on through the pre-season, we all heard plenty of praise thrown towards Ronald Jones. He had beefed up 15-20 lbs and was hitting the holes hard and quick. Then came the actual pre-season games, and all Jones did was show what we had heard over the last couple of months was true. Between then and the first few regular-season games, I caught a glimpse of just how talented Ronald Jones really is.

Judging talent and not one 100 yard game

I consider myself a pretty good judge of talent. You may laugh at the reasons I believe that because it’s rooted, but not limited to fantasy football. Making a long story short, I drafted the eventual Offensive Rookie of The Year four years in a row. Anyone who has ever played the game intensely knows that is an impressive feat. But, I digress. I saw something special in Ronald Jones. Ever since I’ve been waiting to see that talent come to fruition in the form of a big game for him. Yet here I sit going into week 17 without Ronald Jones having that big game. Not once has he cracked the century mark in rushing for any game this season. Neither has Peyton Barber, the second punch to the one-two in our backfield. That should be a clear indication something isn’t right with the gameplan.

Bucs can run much more and still be a passing team

I certainly don’t believe it is the players we have in the stable, so that leaves the system and the way the players are being used within that system. I think that everyone can agree that the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier was for his time, an offensive mastermind in College Football. His Fun ‘n’ Gun offense was a wide-open passing game that changed the way the SEC played football, winning 6 League Titles in twelve years. My point is that during his time at Florida, when he had talent at the running back position, he used it effectively and used it a lot. Never during that time was it ever said that the team had abandoned the pass-heavy offense it was known for. Backs like Fred Taylor, Earnest Graham*, Errict Rhett*, Terry Jackson all went on to have varied success in the NFL. Two of them with the Bucs.

Gameplan has got to be revised and offensive Line help

You can use talented running backs, giving them a high number of touches, and still throw the ball a lot. The Buccaneers so far haven’t used a game plan that truly utilizes its strength at running back with any consistency at all. A game plan that is 40% run and 60% pass is what they should be shooting for. 25-30 touches a game, mostly to Jones is a must if they want to take some of the pressure off Jameis Winston. Peyton Barber is also an established solid back. He just doesn’t have that nitrous switch as Jones does. Drafting a first-round, no later than the second round, offensive tackle left and right side should be on the Bucs’ Whiteboard this year. Andrew Thomas, the Left Tackle out of Georgia, is an exceptional talent that is the best run-blocking, as well as pass in the draft. No other player at the position is graded as high at opening holes for running backs. He can get up and move with no problem. The Bucs should make that investment for the offense and the running backs on this team.

Finishing up

There is another factor that affects the run game, that is, of course, the fact that Jameis Winston throws so many picks early. He is constantly trying to overcome his mistakes, which prevents a normal game plan from even getting going. That is a whole different article, though. In Closing, the Bucs don’t have to become a running team to make good use of the talent at running back they have. Giving the ball to Jones and Barber more is a must if they want to help Winston not have to be the offensive everything every week. Upgrading the O-Line where it needs it is important as well. We have a Franchise Back in Jones. It may never become a fact if they don’t use him more. Not giving him the chance to be more successful is something the staff needs to change. He’s capable of big games if they give him the touches he needs to grow and flourish. Go Bucs!!