April 18, 2021

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After the Fournette show Sunday, running game is a bit more clear

4 min read

Image Credit: Kim Klement | USA TODAY Sports

Separation anxiety?

I haven’t changed my mind. I still think Ronald Jones II is a very talented young running back. I think his time is still coming, whether it’s here or somewhere else. For running backs, separation is king. Fournette got a lot of it, Jones not so much. After Jones touchdown early in the game, that’s the farthest from Carolina defenders he would get the rest of the day. It didn’t help matters when RoJo mishandled the exchange from Brady and fumbled the ball away. Clearly, it was Jones’ fault in the way he positioned his arms/hands for the handoff. It could almost be described as lackadaisical and careless on Jones’ part, which almost defies reason when you know Arians puts up with that kind of stuff with no understanding whatsoever. As I expected, Jones earned himself a decent little break. It was almost a full quarter before Jones touched the ball again. When it was over, Fournette outran Jones to the tune of 8.6 to 3.3 average yards per carry and two touchdowns to Jones one. Fournette had 12 carries for 103 yards to Jones seven carries for 23 yards. Feeling here is that, as the season progresses, this ratio will probably hold true in carries, just like last season, when Jones was trying to unseat Barber as the starter. Each week you could see it slipping away from Barber until Jones finally took over. It’s looking like this changing of the guard won’t be as subtle.

No time to learn to be a star, Fournette ready-made

Because I believe in Jones, part of me wants him to come into Mile High Stadium, having retained the starting job. My common sense side says, “who are you trying to kid?” Fournette, while running a slower 40 time than Jones, appears far more explosive than the SoCal Alumni. I said, in the first article, I did on Fournette’s arrival that Fournette would probably at some point become the man. A one-two punch would be the outcome that I’m sure we all desire. Before Fournette’s coming aboard the ship, I clearly thought this season would be Jones break out season. It still may be, but it’s looking like it will have to be done without the benefit of the lion’s share of the carries. I feel like Jones is the kind of back that gets better the more carries he gets. Now with the Fournette show starting to dominate, the lion’s share will become the Kitten’s carries.

If Fournette re-signs for multiple years in 2021, It could signal the last Bucs season for Jones

Jones’ rookie contract runs through next season. Will he be around until then? Looking forward, I could see Jones being the odd man out. Conceivably the Bucs will try to resign Fournette for 2021 and beyond, and they will have Ke’shawn Vaughn signed through 2023. So where will that leave Jones? If he plays out his contract through 2021 and hasn’t broken out of his shell yet. Jason Licht and One Buc aren’t going to give him a sweet contract and keep him around. There’s still a lot of football to be played. We haven’t even seen Vaughn on the field yet. One thing that is certain: we are a better team with Leonard Fournette as our go-to running back. The more touches that can be afforded him, the better off we are. Worth noting: Jones did not register his first hundred-yard game until week 17 in 2019. Fournette did it in week 2, and it won’t be the last one if he stays healthy. Fournette is more seasoned, and his abilities to adjust in play to defenders is second nature, where Jones is still learning it seems.

Wrapping up by rhyme and reason

Be of good cheer, you swarthy Buccaneer. It is now how it has not been, in yon many seasons. Seek not boldly afar for the simple, but welcomed reasons. A fore wind, called Fournette, has blown hence from the nearest locals. Can’t you hear it in my voice? Why just ask a yokel. They’re quite vocal. Yee band of pillagers never mistaken for villagers will tell thee about the newest odd creature. A Buccaneer runner worthy of being the main feature. So prepare the cannonade, spare not the long guns, do not TIRE! Fore when thine own runner scores by way of the long run; Ready, aim, FIRE!!! – – – Go Bucs!!!

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