Just when it looked like Ronald Jones had secured the starting job in the Buccaneers' backfield and might be ready to reward those who stuck with him in Fantasy football, a missed blitz pickup has him back on shaky ground.
Midway through the Buccaneers' win over the Jaguars on Sunday, Jones got benched for Peyton Barber, After the game, Bruce Arians explained why he kept Jones on the sideline for most of the second half. It came down to not knowing his assignment in pass protection.
"Rojo missed a blitz pickup and that's it," Arians said, per the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud. "You don't get to play no more."
Jones' missed assignment proved to be costly, even though the Buccaneers ended up trouncing the Jaguars, 28-11. On the play in question, Jaguars cornerback D.J. Hayden was given a free rush off the Buccaneers' right side because Jones was trying to help in pass protection on the left side of the line of scrimmage. Jones realized his mistake and tried to get over to the right, but by the time he got there, Hayden was in the process of bringing down Winston. When another defender arrived, the ball came out.
"That was a fumble. We had the game in hand," Arians said, per ESPN. "It was something that had been switched. We were gonna block something because of their blitzes. [Jones] went to block the guy he used to block. That wasn't the plan."
It would be Jones' final snap of the game. He finished with eight yards on six carries. Barber didn't fare much better from an efficiency standpoint, but a bigger role in the offense propped up his numbers. He rushed for 44 yards on 17 carries, but most importantly, he scored two touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Jones, his career has been defined by disappointment after being selected early in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he totaled 77 yards and one touchdown on 30 touches. He began his second season behind Barber , only to relinquish his grip on the starting job five games later. So far this season, Jones has accumulated 700 yards and five touches on 146 touches (4.8 yards per touch), which represents progress, but is still not the kind of production the Buccaneers had in mind when they took him with the 38th-overall pick in the 2018 draft -- three picks after Nick Chubb went to the Browns.
Still, it doesn't sound like Arians has soured on Jones' long-term potential.
"He works his ass off," Arians said. "He's gonna get better at it. We need him running the football. But you can't run the football if you can't protect the quarterback."
In the short term, however, Fantasy owners shouldn't trust Jones to get the workload required for success. In his weekly column,. It's certainly worth a read, but the short version is that it's impossible to trust either Buccaneer running back after everything we've seen so far this season. Start either of them at your own peril.