I’m calling it as I see it, nothing more.
As far back as last season (2020), I’ve been lamenting the departure of Ronald Jones II. This season I’ve mentioned it numerous times and done an article or two on that exact subject. I wish I could say that when I think about it that it doesn’t bring up emotions, but it does. You see, I’ve been a very big supporter of #27 ever since the Bucs drafted the young man out of SoCal. I felt from the very beginning that he was mishandled — although some of it must be attributed to his acclimation or lack thereof to the NFL game. Jones was a steal for Jason Licht in the second round (38th overall).
Enter Bruce Arians.
For the 2020 season, the Bucs added Leonard Fournette, who was let go by the Jaguars. The 2020 season was the first season affected by Covid-19. There was to be no Camp or pre-season. The starter at running back would be decided in the first part of the regular season; on the fly. The competition was fairly easily won by Jones, who settled nicely into the lead role. The season would be one that saw Ronald Jones tie with Ahman Green for the second-longest touchdown run in NFL history (98 yards, Tony Dorsett and Derrick Henry tied for the longest run at 99 yards). As the 2020 regular season came to an end, Jones found himself in Covid protocols, as well as an injury that would prevent him from reaching the field for much of the playoff run. Leonard Fournette stepped in and played very well, earning the nickname “Playoff Lenny” as the Bucs won their second Championship.
Fast Forward to 2021.
For whatever reason, Jones fell into a hole this season, and Fournette slid into the lead role. Fournettes receiving skills surely played a part in the team’s decision to relegate Jones to little more than a Gatorade Cooler on the sidelines. How he went from the lead back to an afterthought escapes me. Props to Fournette for stepping up, but it leads to some head-scratching at the least. Near the end of this season, Fournette suffered an injury that would sideline him until the playoffs. It wasn’t a stretch to believe that this was Jones’s time to shine with Lenny out. At no time this season was Jones ever handed the keys to the boat and allowed to just sail with it. Has Jones’s treatment by the team got something to do with the fact that he’s becoming a free agent at season’s end? I would be shocked if Jones didn’t bolt to a team that values the run and Jones’s abilities more than what the Bucs have shown him this season.
At this time, Jones is extremely unlikely to play in the Eagles game, and his availability moving forward is under question. Even if Jones is able to heal and be ready to play in any further playoff games this season, don’t hold your breath that he will see many, if any at all, touches — even if healthy. It wouldn’t surprise me if he never touches the ball again in a Bucs uniform. For me, that is a sad thought. Because I believe he has the tools to be a very good back in this league and will show that with his next NFL Team so much more when given a fair shake and more playing time. Maybe simply because of the offensive schemes that have been here since Jones’s arrival, the deck has been stacked against him. I don’t think the majority of fans realize just how good Jones can be. A new team and offense will do his game wonders, watch and see. Go Bucs!!