Jones will have to earn his carries with Bucs

by Gary Shelton on July 30, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Ronald Jones II breaks free in drill./STEVEN MUNCIE

Ronald Jones II breaks free in drill./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 3 a.m.

What we know is this: The Bucs had one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL a year ago. The incumbent, Doug Martin, now earns his check in Oakland. The Bucs think highly of second-round running back Ronald Jones II.

In other words, it's easy to connect the dots and assume that Jones will be the featured running back for Tampa Bay this season.

We'll see.

Jones will have to work his way into being a one-man backfield this year.

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DeSean Jackson makes a catch for Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

DeSean Jackson makes a catch for Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

He'll start off in a shared backfield with Payton Barber, but a more favorable  split for Jones will have to be earned.

"We've done both over the course," said Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter. "It depends on who your backs are. The best backs I've been around, they want the ball. They want the ball a lot, they get into a rhythm. In 2015, when we

Pierre-Paul gets work for Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Pierre-Paul gets work for Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

were second in the league in rushing, Doug (Martin) carried it a lot. We haven't been able to get back to that. We'll just have to see how that sorts out. That's a work in progress. We've done it both ways but that kind of depends on who your backs are."

It isn't easy for rookies. Just look at Jones' teammate Vita Vea, who left practice with a lower leg injury.

"Vita left practice," Koetter said. "I'm not sure what it is. It's a lower-leg injury of some kind. We’ll know later – I don't know right now. He got kicked, I believe, but we don't know."

Jones will be competing with an improved Barber for carries.

"I'd say protections, probably," Koetter said when asked where Barber's major improvement has been. "For all the young backs, until you're in there

Wide Receiver Justin Watson does drills./STEVEN MUNCIE

Wide receiver Justin Watson does drills./STEVEN MUNCIE

on third down when you’re getting the exotic blitz looks – the first and second-down protections are fairly basic – but when you get in there on third down it's a little tougher. Peyton had a couple good pick-ups today; he missed a couple yesterday, so he learned his lesson.”

Jones said he's made progress in blitz pickups, too.

“Most definitely," Jones said. "Identifying, that is the key — find out who you have and then it’s actually getting over there and giving the quarterback space and time to throw it. Progress every day.”

Such details are the difference between the college game and the pros, Jones said.

Koetter watches his players work./STEVEN MUNCIE

Koetter watches his players work./STEVEN MUNCIE

“Probably the responsibilities," Jones said of the hardest part. "You’ve got a lot dual-reads. You have to check three sides — backside, weakside — and in college I was just primarily, it’s one-two and then I’m out. But (in the NFL) you have to do one, two, three, four, five, and then you get out. So it’s a lot more but I’m picking it up.”

Jones said he has learned lessons from the vets.

“Take care of your body, number one, because if you’re not on the field, you can’t play," Jones said. "And studying when you have time off. Always be accountable.”

At USC, Jones was able to run for 3,619 yards in three seasons. He scored 39 times and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. The Bucs averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season.

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