Preseason over, but Bucs still Jonesing for a back

by Gary Shelton on August 31, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Jones searches in vain for a hole to run through./JEFFREY S. KING

Jones searches in vain for a hole to run through./JEFFREY S. KING

Friday,  4 a.m.

Jones has 22 yards rushing all preseason./JEFFREY S. KING

Jones has 22 yards rushing all preseason./JEFFREY S. KING

In their mind's eye, some players are going to the top.

Others? They're going home.

And Ronald Jones? He seems to be going nowhere at all.

Jones, the latest second-round draft pick that has caused worry lines among the fans, stumbled through another preseason game Saturday night. He didn't hit a crease. He didn't break a tackle. He neither zigged nor zagged.

Ouch. For the fourth time in a row.

Shaun Wilson dives for the first down./JEFFREY S. KING

Shaun Wilson dives for the first down./JEFFREY S. KING

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Justin Watson scored the Bucs' only touchdown./JEFFREY S. KING

Justin Watson scored the Bucs' only touchdown./JEFFREY S. KING

Jones carried the ball 10 times and gained only four net yards  in a 25-10 loss to Jacksonville. Think about that. That means that Jones carried 10 times for all of 12 feet.  He averaged 14.4 inches per carry.

Granted, Jones wasn't playing with starters. On the other hand, he wasn't playing against starters, either. You might think that, just by accident, he would find a crease now and again.

He hasn't. In the preseason, he carried 28 times for 22 yards. He was eight-for-nine against Miami, four-for-two against Tennessee, six-for-seven against Detroit and 10-for-four against Jacksonville. Granted, preseason struggles don't always translate to the regular season, but if the trend holds, fans will start to mention Jones with second-round Buc fizzles like Booker Reese, Roberto Aguayo,

Ryan Griffin had a solid preseason./JEFFREY S. KING

Ryan Griffin had a solid preseason./JEFFREY S. KING

Dexter Jackson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Da'Quan Bowers, Brian Price, Sabby Piscatelli, Melvin Johnson and Brett Moritz.

So is coach Dirk Koetter among the Bucs who are concerned?

"A little bit, yeah," Koetter said. "I can't give you a good answer for it. I saw it in practice, but we weren't able to get it going during the game. For whatever reason, when his runs came up, we didn't block very well, number one, and he didn't get much on his own.

Antony Auclair rambles for a short gain./JEFFREY S. KING

Antony Auclair rambles for a short gain./JEFFREY S. KING

"I don't have a good answer for you. Of course, I haven't seen the tape for tonight, but it didn't look pretty from what I saw. Running plays -- rarely is it one guy's fault. Sometimes it is, but usually it's a combination. I know from Ronald's part, it is not at all from lack of effort or from him not knowing what he's doing. I know there has been a little  undercurrent about him not knowing his playbook. I want to be real clear on this: that is not an issue."

Still, there has never been a back taken in the first or second round by the Bucs who has had such a meager preseason. Johnny Davis, a No. 2 in 1978, gained 164 in his first preseason. Warrick Dunn, a No. 1 in 1997, had 163. Even Mike Alstott, who was a fullback and No. 2 pick in 1976, gained 28 yards on 12 carries.

Reedy had five catches for the Bucs./JEFFREY S. KING

Reedy had five catches for the Bucs./JEFFREY S. KING

Whatever the reason, Jones has gone from  contending for a starting job to being Peyton Barber's way-way-back-up. It's tough to envision him playing a major role against the Saints

Otherwise, it was like a preseason game, only less so. The fourth preseason game is rarely of interest because the scrubs take over. Justin Watson, the receiver, seemed to help himself.  Maybe Shaun Wilson, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Bobo Wilson and Bernard Reedy each had five catches. Quarterback Ryan Griffin, destined for the third team, had a rating of 90.2

Austin Allen played quarterback for the Bucs./JEFFREY S. KING

Austin Allen played quarterback for the Bucs./JEFFREY S. KING

Still, there weren't a lot of players who seemed to be on one side of the bubble who played their way onto the other side.

And so the Bucs bid farewell to quarterback Jameis Winston, who is finished for three weeks.

"I'm just going to be working really hard and getting ready for Week Four," Winston said. "That's really all , man. You can't say anything. It's a tough situation, so I'm just going to be working my tail off to get back with (his teammates).

"I'm just going to work my tail off. Who knows how things will go? Hopefully, they go great. I know it's going to be a tough situation for our coaches, but I just want to get back with my team. That's out of my control. I've just got to get back and work hard and makes sure I'm ready for Week Four."

Koetter talked about getting ready without Winston.

"We've got no choice," Koetter said. "That's the cards we were dealt."

The rest of the cards? The Bucs have to start backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, in the tough-to-play Superdome, against an improved New Orleans defense. They try to pull off the upset a week from Sunday at 1 p.m.

"The players are excited to play real games," Koetter said.  "The preseason is important – it’s an important part of the puzzle. But, the more you go [and] the closer you get to really playing, the more the players focus on that. They want to have a few days off here to get their bodies back and get their legs freshened up and are anxious to start on New Orleans.”

 

Josh Liddell makes a tackle in the open field./JEFFREY S. KING

Josh Liddell makes a tackle in the open field./JEFFREY S. KING

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