Jones will thus spend the first two games of his professional career on the sidelines, a result of both Peyton Barber's clear hold on the No. 1 running back role and Jones' own deficiencies in the preseason. The rookie's next chance to make his NFL debut comes in a Week 3 Monday night matchup against the Steelers.
Coach Dirk Koetter said Jones doesn't have any issues with effort or knowledge of the playbook, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. "When his runs came up, we didn't block them very well, number one, and he wasn't able to do much with it on his own," Koetter said. "I know from Ronald's standpoint, it's not at all from lack of effort, or from him not knowing what he's doing."
Koetter seems to be seeing the same thing as everyone else -- poor vision from Jones combined with terrible blocking by the offensive line. The final product was a 28-22-1 rushing line for the rookie in four preseason games, with his lone reception producing more yards (37) than 28 carries. Meanwhile, Peyton Barber toted the rock 15 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns in three preseason appearances, locking down the lead job for Week 1 in New Orleans. It won't come as any surprise if the Bucs try to get an immediate return on their second-round pick, but we probably shouldn't expect more than a handful of touches for Jones in the season opener.
Jones' struggles with drops during practice haven't gone unnoticed by the Tampa Bay coaching staff, ESPN.com's Jenna Laine reports. "In college, there was probably a reason why [Jones] was only thrown the ball 17 times," said Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer. "He's never going to be the best catching guy on the team, but he certainly can improve on catching the balls that we want to throw to him."
In addition to commenting on the rookie second-round pick, Spencer acknowledged that Peyton Barber has solidified his own place atop the depth chart. Jones may still enter Week 1 with some kind of role in the backfield, but he hasn't exactly made the best case for himself with 12 carries for 11 yards and a touchdown through two preseason games. The USC product only caught 32 passes in 40 collegiate appearances, though he did average 13.4 yards on 14 receptions last year, proving to be dangerous once he got the ball in his hands.
For the second time in as many preseason games, Jones couldn't get much going on the ground, although he had the misfortune of seeing a seven-yard run called back due to an offensive holding call against tight end O.J. Howard. Jones logged time in both the second and third quarters -- giving him plenty of reps against the Titans' second- and third-team defenders -- making his overall numbers particularly disappointing. Current starter Peyton Barber enjoyed significantly more success versus Tennessee's first-team defense, further widening the gulf between the two backs for the moment. Jones will look to put together his first solid game as a pro during next Friday's night's exhibition tilt against the Lions.
Peyton Barber seems to have an early edge over Jones, Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times reports. "Peyton is our starter," Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said Monday. "We're definitely going to use Ronald Jones and take advantage of what he's going to do. We do have the two veteran backs behind him. Again, we've got three more preseason games. Let's just let it sort out a little more."
Jones took eight carries for nine yards and a touchdown in Thursday's preseason opener against Miami, getting all of his opportunities after Barber -- who had four carries for 21 yards and a score -- had been removed from the game. Koetter seems content with the current pecking order, though his Monday comment did leave the door open for Jones to make a push for the starting job over the final three weeks of the preseason. With Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers and Shaun Wilson competing for a role on passing downs, Tampa seems to be headed for a three-man backfield committee to open the season. Jones offers upside as the best pure running talent of the group, but uncertainty about his workload is also a big factor in the valuation process.
|4||9/30/18||@ CHI||1:00 pm|
|Bye: Week 5|
|6||10/14/18||@ ATL||1:00 pm|
|8||10/28/18||@ CIN||1:00 pm|
|9||11/4/18||@ CAR||1:00 pm|
|11||11/18/18||@ NYG||1:00 pm|
|15||12/16/18||@ BAL||1:00 pm|
|16||12/23/18||@ DAL||1:00 pm|
|2018||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||0||0||0||0||---||0||0||0||0|
|2018||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||0||0||0||0||---||0||0||0||0||0|