1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Rebuilding Ronald Jones: Bucs running back healthier, more confident heading into his second training camp

The new coaching staff also is optimistic that Jones will live up to the promise that made him a second-round pick in 2018.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) as he walks off the field after mandatory mini-camp on June 5. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) as he walks off the field after mandatory mini-camp on June 5. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published Jun. 15, 2019

TAMPA — After a rookie season that saw Bucs running back Ronald Jones’ ability beaten and his confidence broken, the team’s second-year player will enter training camp as one of the team’s most intriguing figures.

A new coaching staff offers Jones a fresh set of eyes and opportunity. Jones, drafted in the second round, played sparingly last year, and when he was on the field, he wasn’t productive, carrying the ball 23 times for an average of 1.9 yards.

“Last year, it was definitely disappointing for me for myself and from a team standpoint,” Jones said recently during mandatory minicamp. “Definitely, for me, it’s about getting on the right track. We have a new system, a new staff, we’re trying to make our mark in here.”

When Bruce Arians’ staff studied tape of Jones for the first time, they saw a player whose confidence they’d have to build back up. Running backs coach Todd McNair noted that Jones was hit behind the line of scrimmage on 13 of his carries, so he never got to show the moves and burst he displayed as a college player at USC.

But in practice, they saw a different player. Maybe rebuilding Ronald Jones wouldn’t be so difficult. Jones emerges from Arians’ short list of players who have been most impressive this offseason. Those who work closest with Jones, like McNair, love the strong work ethic and light personality he has shown, but don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves.

“You just want him — all players, any player — the thing is you’ve got to feel comfortable,” McNair said. “The first thing is knowing what to do and he’s very smart and sharp and he retains (information). That’s a big plus, because once a player understands what to do, he can play fast, and then it’s just a matter of him getting him comfortable and giving him some tools to get himself on the right track. Baby steps and keep going from there.”

Related: RELATED: Bruce Arians impressed by strides made by Ronald Jones

While only so much can be taken from this offseason’s non-contact workouts — you can gauge a running back’s speed and vision, but not his ability to hit the hole or break tackles — Jones is going into July’s training camp feeling good about himself and his ability to contribute is important, especially when you consider how rough last year was for Jones from the start.

Entering last year’s combine, some draft experts saw Jones as the second-best running back available behind Saquon Barkley, but he went in with a nagging hamstring injury he aggravated while running his 40-yard dash, limiting him for the rest of the combine and scaring teams off.

Jones said the hamstring lingered through offseason practice. He ran for just 22 yards on 28 carries in the preseason and his pass-catching ability was a glaring weakness. He was a healthy scratch for the first three games, and once he saw the field in a Week 4 loss in Chicago, he was unspectacular. In the nine games he played, he logged more than 20 offensive snaps just once, and he missed four games with a recurrence of the hamstring injury.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) in a game against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 21. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)

But Jones said this year he’s healthier than he’s ever been. He likes the freedom of the new Bucs offense, and the fact that Arians said he wants to run the ball more. He’s simplified his pass-catching technique, making sure he lowers his elbows so he can see the ball better as it’s thrown to him.

“He was drafted where he was drafted for a reason,” McNair said. “He’s got a wealth of talent. Our goal is to take the anxiety away from him, take the expectations off him. Let just focus and make this thing small. And it seems to be paying off. He’s working hard, and he’s going to keep working hard.”

Jones said he has developed a better awareness by watching veterans like starter Peyton Barber and newcomer Andre Ellington. He admits he’s taking meetings and practices more seriously.

“Just learning how to really be a pro.”

“I would say RoJo has been showing out,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “His confidence, his comfort, RoJo’s a smart guy. He’s getting comfortable in this offense. No one is breathing down his neck. He’s more relaxed and executing at a high level.”

Related: RELATED: Join our Bucs Cannon Fodder Facebook group for conversation, polls, story links and more

Jones, who will enter training camp a week shy of his 22nd birthday, said he’s definitely more comfortable than he was last season.

“Confidence is definitely key because if you don’t believe in yourself, that you have the ability, these guys, they’re going to show you up,” Jones said. “These are the best players in the world so when you know what you’re doing, you can just react and not have to think, and I think that’s what I’m doing this year. Just reacting and playing ball. I’m not asking myself, ‘Is this zone, is this man? Do I break out, do I break in?’”

The Bucs passed the ball 64.13 percent of the time last season, mostly because they spent most of their games playing from behind, and their 95.2 rushing yards per game ranked 29th out of the league’s 32 teams. They also averaged just 3.92 yards per carry, which was second-worst in the NFL.

“The offense is a lot more free,” Jones said. “I think we’re able to play within ourselves and be ourselves. I like it a lot. For me, it’s fun. They’re all great coaches, but I think just for me, I’m starting to put all the verbiage and everything together.”

“I’m definitely ready and I can’t wait to get the most of those opportunities, but I’ve just got to showing them that I can be a dependable player and they can count on me in critical situations.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.


  1. East quarterback James Morgan, of Florida International University, (12) during the first half of the East West Shrine football game Saturday. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Morgan, who leads his East team to a pair of touchdowns, raises his draft stock as do a few others the Bucs should keep an eye on.
  2. Jason Garrett had success against the Giants as Cowboys coach. Now he will face Dallas as New York's new offensive coordinator. [RON JENKINS  |  AP]
    The recently fired Dallas Cowboys coach stays in the NFC East.
  3. Steve Young was a supplemental draft pick of the Bucs in 1984 and started 19 games for Tampa Bay in 1985 and 1986 before he was traded to the 49ers for a pair of draft picks in 1987. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS [Tampa Bay Times]
    The Hall of Fame quarterback played two seasons with Tampa Bay before winning a Super Bowl with the 49ers
  4. A Super Bowl matchup involving former Buccaneers great John Lynch, left, and the San Francisco 49ers and Ryan Tannehill, right, and the Tennessee Titans could be tough to stomach for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. [Associated Press/DIRK SHADD | Times]
    Rick Stroud | For a lot of reasons, including gifting wins to both teams and GMs who got away, this would be a bad match up for Tampa Bay.
  5. Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman (55) during drills for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    “They don’t yet have the mentality of a Miami Hurricane,” the linebacker says during the days leading up to the East-West Shrine Game.
  6. Todd Monken spent two seasons in Tampa Bay, the last as offensive coordinator, before being dismissed along with the rest of head coach Dirk Koetter's staff after the 2018 season.
    Tampa Bay’s former play-caller will be designing game plans for the Bulldogs against the Florida Gators next season.
  7. San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 11. [TONY AVELAR  |  AP]
    The former Bucs and Broncos safety has his team one win from the Super Bowl.
  8. Florida receiver Josh Hammond (18) on the field during practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Plus Plant High product Jake Fruhmorgen’s journey from Clemson to UF to Baylor to the East-West Shrine Game.
  9. Memphis linebacker Bryce Huff gets fired up after a play during a game against SMU at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas. [KYLE OKITA  |]
    Plus more East-West Shrine Game nuggets, including former Navy star quarterback Malcolm Perry practicing at receiver
  10. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston reportedly would be unhappy with a franchise tag of about $27 million on a one-year deal. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The fifth-year starter reportedly wants as much as $30 million per year and would not be keen on a franchise player tag.