Bucs’ Jones has blossomed into a weapon

by Gary Shelton on November 18, 2020

in general

Jones already has his most yards in a season./JOE MESTAS

Wednesday, 4 p.m.

The worst prognosticator in the world is your local weatherman. Despite all the radar, despite all the weather systems, that guy has zero idea of where a hurricane is going or where it will hit. It's like God is throwing knuckleballs, and everything is a moving green screen.

Me? I am second.

I thought Keith McCants was going to be the real deal. I had seen McCants in college, where it seemed he made every tackle, and I was sure he was going to be a great player. He wasn't. The last time I talked to Keith, he was trying to convince me he wasn't a bust, after all. He missed on that one, too.

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I didn't think Joe Madden could turn around the Rays, which sort of fits, because I didn't think Tony Dungy could turn around the Bucs, either. I thought Lovie Smith was a good idea at the time. I thought Josh Freeman was going to blossom into something special.

All together now: Oops.

Hey, it comes with the job. You live your life by your opinions, and sometimes, you strike out more than a Tampa Bay Rays' hitter. Hey, I believed in Warren Sapp. I believed in Derrick Brooks. Given the Bucs' draft record, that's something.

All of which leads us to today's subject: Ronald Jones II.

Who, at times, makes me look like a genius or a fool.

For a long time, I thought Jones was a wasted draft pick, another second-round pick that is a trash-can behind One Buc Place. He couldn't find meaningful carries as a rookie on a horrible rushing team, and it was easy to write him off.

And now, he is pretty darn good ... sometimes.

Have you made your mind up on Jones? Is he another Warrick Dunn, or is he another Lars Tate? Can you ride him for 1,000 yards, or will he fumble the Bucs right out of the playoffs? Or both?

Okay, okay. This week, the world is in love with Jones, who lit up the Panthers for 192 yards, including 170 in the second half. Granted, Jones had a 98-yarder, but that means he had 94 aside from that run, which is pretty nifty behind that offensive line.

But the three games before that? He had 34, 23 and nine yards. He was running through quicksand and into walls.

Look at him go now. If Jones can play the way he did Sunday, he can be the Bucs' best back since Doug Martin back in 2012 (the last 1,000-yard season for Tampa Bay).

By now, he has convinced us he's fast enough. He's strong enough. (Yeah, he could use better hands.)

Look, Jones has 730 yards on the season. In six games, he has to get 270 yards to get 1,000. That's 45 yards a game. He's averaging 73.

It's a long way from Jones' rookie season, when he had 44 yards for the season (and a 1.9 yards per carry average).

Here's the thing. Jones has grown up. He's tougher now. He's more confident. He's a smarter runner.

Oh, there is still too much boom vs. too much bust to his game. His fumbles can lead to him getting erased from the game plan.

But on a team that has a lot of weapons, Jones has become one.

Who would have thought it?

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