Ronald Jones has come a long way in a short amount of time as it relates to his relationship with coach Bruce Arians. Despite being benched by Arians late in the 2019 season, Jones has earned his coach's confidence heading into the 2020 season, so much so that Arians said that Jones will be the featured runner heading into the regular season.
"RoJo is the main guy; he'll carry the load," Arians told reporters on Wednesday, via the team's official website. "All of those other guys are fighting for roles – [for] who goes in second when he gets tired, maybe who is the third-down guy. But they're all fighting for a role and special teams will have a lot to do with that."
Jones, a former second-round pick out of USC, didn't play much on offense during his rookie season with the Bucs. He received a significantly bigger role in 2019, his first season with Arians as his coach. Last fall, Jones totaled 1,033 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns for the Buccaneers, who went 7-9 during Arians' first season. A starter during the Buccaneers' final nine games of the season, Jones rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries during Tampa Bay's final two games of the regular season.
"He improved dramatically from last April to December," Arians said of Jones. "He has shown that he's the guy. He is a guy with a lot of talent. He is excellent in the screen game. His run-after-catch is good. Just for him – how much can he expand it? But I have all the confidence in the world [in him]. He put a lot of time in working out and catching balls to improve his hands in the offseason and it's showing up already."
While he will be the team's featured runner in 2020, Jones is part of a crowded backfield that includes rookies Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Raymond Calais. The team also recently signed veteran LeSean McCoy, a former All-Pro who started nine games for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs last season.
"LeSean – adding him – he's a great veteran, he's a very bright guy and he's already coaching those guys and helping them out," Arians said of McCoy, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry for the Chiefs last season. "He'll find his niche easily. … He's a heck of a receiver. That's the one thing that gets me excited having played against him all these years is that he's a hell of a receiver and he's still got a very explosive first step. Yeah, I think that will be a big part of it."
Jones spent the majority of the offseason in Arizona, where he trained with other pro athletes under the guidance of trainer Luke Neal. Weight training has a big component of Jones' training, as he recently revealed that he is now up to 225 pounds, roughly 20 more pounds than his weight during the 2018 NFL Combine. With Vaughn and Calais expected to make plays on the outside, it's clear that Jones is embracing his role as the Buccaneers' workhorse. Jones has also been working on improving his hands, as he looks forward to catching passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady in 2020.
"I'm very excited," Jones said in July as it relates to the upcoming season, via The Athletic's Greg Auman. "We've been anxious, seeing all the offseason moves, getting the Brady bunch with Gronk (tight end Rob Gronkowski) back as well, with the weapons we had in place already. We're feeling really good about this season and know it can be something special."