Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ronald Jones could be RB that carries the Bucs back to the playoffs

TAMPA — Ronald Jones took the handoff and ran to his left, stuck his right foot in the ground and darted through a collapsing hole between the guard and tackle before disappearing like a jet on the horizon.

It was his first carry during his first rookie minicamp practice in a Buccaneers uniform. But it wasn't hard to imagine Jones carrying the football to the end zone, carrying the offense on his shoulders and carrying the Bucs back to the postseason this fall.

"Well, Ronald is what we thought," coach Dirk Koetter said Friday. "You can see the guy has got juice. I mean I'm sure everybody out here saw it. When he touches the ball, he's got a gear that we don't have on our team right now. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a lot to learn. But you can see from his USC tape, but it's great to see him out here and see him in our colors."

Jones, a second-round pick from Southern Cal, should have the biggest impact of any Bucs' player from this year's draft class.
That's not a slight on Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, the 12th overall pick.

But Tampa Bay averaged only 3.7 yards per carry last season, which ranked 27th in the NFL. Their eight rushing TDs tied for 25th. The way you improve that is with a running back who can make explosive plays. Jones is that, having had 12 games in which he had a least one run of 40 yards or more.
Jones, who won't turn 21 until August, isn't shrinking from expectations. He expects to hit it big and hit it fast.

RELATED: The Bucs' run game has been among the NFL's worst. Can Ronald Jones fix it?

"Definitely coming in and hitting it right off the bat," Jones said. "Yeah, Rookie of the Year, things like that. Taking the team to the next level. Winning the division. Possibly going deep in the playoffs. Just making that spark."

It's happened here before, you know.

In 2005, the Bucs drafted Cadillac Williams out of Auburn with the fifth overall pick. Williams rushed for 434 yards in his first three games, setting records as the first rookie running back to ever have three consecutive, 100 yard games to start his career while rushing for the most yards. They sent his shoes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Bucs started 4-0 and 5-1. Williams won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns. The team won the NFC South with an 11-5 mark before losing in the wildcard to Washington.

The Bucs were coming off a 6-10 season, their first under Tony Dungy, when they drafted Warrick Dunn with 12th overall in '97. He was the perfect complement to fullback Mike Alstott. Dunn produced 1,440 yards rushing (978 yards, four TDs) and receiving (462 yards, three TDs), was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Bucs went 10-6 to finish second in the NFC Central, beat Detroit in the wildcard and lost to the Packers in the divisional playoffs.

Could Jones be one of those transformative running backs?

RELATED: Bucs get their back in the second round: USC's Ronald Jones

Doug Martin rushed for more than 1,454 yards and 11 TDs as a rookie, but it wasn't enough to help the 2012 Bucs avoid a losing season under Greg Schiano. Alvin Kamara was a third-round choice of the Saints and was the difference last season in them getting to the NFC title game.

"If you're an explosive player, yeah, you're going to help the team," Koetter said. "Every team is looking to increase their explosives. It was a good group of running backs in the draft and thought Ronald was an explosive guy who would be a nice complement to Peyton, a complement to the guys we got. Again, it's one day. Let's let it play out here."

Koetter is right. Jones has a long way to go. Right now, he's a two-down back. He wasn't used much as a receiver at USC. Jones caught the football well Friday, but rookies always have a long way to go in learning pass protection.

"Well, he caught the ball well today," Koetter said. "We'll have to see how it goes overall. He did a good job the way they asked him to. They threw him screens and check downs, so we'll just have to see. Again, it's the first practice."

For Jones, there will be other adjustments. Friday was another big step in a long process. He got to meet the other players in his rookie class. He tried to navigate his way around One Buc Place. He pulled on a practice jersey with the NFL shield and a helmet with the Bucs logo.

"It felt great," Jones said. "You know they got the label on it and they've got to the logo. You know, at SC we didn't get the logo going in. So it's good to have that stripe on me.

"As soon as I walked up, the sun and the humidity hit me just like everyone said it would. But it's everything that I've asked for. I'm extremely blessed to be here and I'm just ready to make the most of it."

Comments
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start the upcoming season likely means that the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for three crucial games.Fitzpatrick stepped in as a starter for three games last year when W...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

TAMPA — The Bucs will open the upcoming season without the face of their franchise, as quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended three games by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.Winston, 24, was accused of groping a ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Trade him. Waive him. Cut him.Whatever.Just get rid of him.Jameis Winston should never play another game for the Tampa Bay Bucs.Plain and simple, he's a bad guy and the Bucs should have nothing more to do with him.He's already going to miss the first...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston at least three games without pay for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Winston's suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expected to be...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Rick Stroud isn't buying an ESPN radio report that any suspension levied against Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by the NFL would stem from Winston's failure to report an alleged incident between him and a female Ub...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: When will we know about possible Jameis Winston suspension?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: When will we know about possible Jameis Winston suspension?

Rick Stroud talks about when we will know about a possible Jameis Winston suspension and why DeSean Jackson hasn't been more productive with the Bucs on today's podcast.Plus, who might the Rays trade next? Will the Lightning make any b...
Published: 06/21/18
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Published: 06/20/18
Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Just to preface this, the NFL Network's annual countdown of the league's top 100 players is a made-for-TV deal, good for summer offseason conversation but not carrying any huge amount of real significance.Having said that, it's worth noting that for ...
Published: 06/19/18
Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Will Gholston is painfully honest about a 2017 season that wasn't anything close to what he wanted it to be. Ask him about last year, and there are no parentheses in his world to soften what he remembers here."I just played (crappy), completely. That...
Published: 06/18/18
Ex-Bucs WR Lawrence Dawsey worked with team during OTAs

Ex-Bucs WR Lawrence Dawsey worked with team during OTAs

The Bucs had four extra coaches during organized team activities last month as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, including former Tampa Bay receiver Lawrence Dawsey.Dawsey, 50, played for the Bucs from 1991-95, finishing his time ...
Published: 06/18/18