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Why you should believe in Ronald Jones

Encina’s Early Read: There’s evidence Jones’ career-best performance was among the most efficient by an NFL running back in week 1.
Ronald Jones II walks off the field after the game. The Buccaneers lost their season opener, 31-17, against the San Francisco 49ers, at Raymond James Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019 in Tampa.  [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
Ronald Jones II walks off the field after the game. The Buccaneers lost their season opener, 31-17, against the San Francisco 49ers, at Raymond James Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019 in Tampa. [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times]
Published Sep. 12, 2019

CHARLOTTE — From the moment they saw tape of Ronald Jones, the Bucs new coaching staff was excited about his potential. So leading up to the season opener, they invested a lot of effort into rebuilding his confidence.

And one bright spot that emerged from the 31-17 loss to San Francisco was Jones’ best game as a pro. He led the team with 75 rushing yards on 13 carries and had an 18-yard reception for 93 total offensive yards.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians said this week Peyton Barber remains the starting running back, but that Jones will play a significant role and coaches will play the hot hand, as they did in the second half Sunday when Jones accumulated most of his yardage.

“I don’t know if it could’ve gotten any hotter unless he [would have] run through the last one and scored a couple times, but he was very decisive and there were a lot of holes for him to be decisive in," Arians said. "He was running through arm tackles and that’s exactly what I expected out of him.”

Last year, Jones struggled to avoid contact, was indecisive in turning downfield and didn’t show much burst.

Against the 49ers, he ran with authority, primarily between the tackles. In the second half, he logged runs of 11, 11, 9, 7, 9 and 16 yards.

Hit the hole, RoJo.

So why was Jones so productive? NFL Next Gen Stats rates running back efficiency by taking the total distance a back travels on rushing plays as a ball carrier per rushing yards gained. The lower the number the more efficient.

In Week 1, Jones ranked sixth in the league, and was in pretty good company. Here’s the list.

Player Team Efficiency rating
Saquon Barkley N.Y. GIants 1.94
LeSean McCoy Kansas City 2.1
Christian McCaffrey Carolina 2.42
Mark Ingram Baltimore 2.51
Carlos Hyde Houston 2.62
Ronald Jones Tampa Bay 2.68
Marlon Mack Indianapolis 2.83
Todd Gurley L.A. Rams 2.98
Alvin Kamara New Orleans 3.06
Malcom Brown L.A. Rams 3.11

Another NFL Next Gen stat measures the average time a running back spends behind the line of scrimmage — the average seconds from the times he receives the ball to passes the line of scrimmage — which is an indicator that he’s running straight ahead with speed. Jones had the fourth-lowest time behind the line of scrimmage in Week 1.

MORE BUCS: A bright spot named Ronald Jones.

The Bucs’ offensive line also deserves credit for Jones’ success. They opened holes for him, and their Week 1 run blocking graded out fourth best in the league (73.1), according to Pro Football Focus.

“We’re a tight-end-to-tight-end, inside running team, so yeah, [center] Ryan [Jensen] did a heck of a job," Arians said. "[Left guard] Ali [Marpet] had a heck of a ball game. [Left tackle] Donovan [Smith] had a heck of a game in the run game also.”

While it seemed like Jones dominated the snaps in the second half, he received the fewest among the Bucs’ three running backs, meaning he made the most of his opportunity.

Jones should see more attention tonight at Bank of America Stadium. The 49ers didn’t stack line often, preferring to play a zone defense to take away the Bucs passing game and frustrate Jameis Winston. Still, the 49ers run defense ranked 14th in the league last season and improved since then.

MORE BUCS: For running back Ronald Jones, the future is now.

Last week, the Panthers showed some susceptibility to the run. Carolina allowed 166 rushing yards Week 1, which was the fifth-most of any team in the league.

Some of that might have to do with the fact the Rams were the third-best rushing team in the league last season. But 47.5 percent of Los Angeles’ total offense came on the ground, which suggests the Bucs’ biggest key to victory tonight in Carolina could be by establishing the run.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.


  1. In this file photo, Bucs coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Jameis Winston walk off the field after a season-opening home loss to San Francisco. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
  2. Florida State running back Cam Akers (3) runs for a touchdown during the first quarter of last season's home opener against Boise State. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  3. He may look happy here, but Bradley Pinion seems pretty overjoyed (at least on social media) at the prospect of the team dumping this uni design. [Times]
  4. Kacey Reynolds announces that LSU linebacker Devin White has been selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. The Bucs announced Sunday that Reynolds had died at age 20 after a three-year battle with Hodgkin lymphoma. [MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP]
  5. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett's bet on himself is about to pay off, in Tampa Bay or elsewhere. [PAUL SANCYA  |  AP]
  6. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99),  during the first half of a game against the Chiefs on Jan. 12, 2020, took to Twitter to give his view of the owners' labor proposal: "A hard no." (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann) [REED HOFFMANN  |  AP]
  7. Monte Kiffin, shown here talking to safety John Lynch during a preseason game against the Jaguars on Aug. 16, 2002, this season will be the 14th inductee into the Bucs Ring of Honor. [WHITE, KEVIN  |  St. Petersburg Times]
  8. Washington quarterback Jacob Eason in action against Southern Cal in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) [ELAINE THOMPSON  |  AP]
  9. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, left, and his son Stephen Jones, the team's executive vice president, leave after NFL owners meet to discuss a proposed labor agreement, Thursday Feb. 20, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) [BEBETO MATTHEWS  |  AP]
  10. Former Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is a free agent after one season in Carolina. [TIM IRELAND  |  AP]
  11. An ESPN analyst's recent criticism of Jameis Winston was based on what he saw as excessive delay-of-game penalties. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  12. FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2016, file photo Pro Football Hall of Fame 2016 inductee Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., talks with reporters in Canton, Ohio. President Donald Trump pardoned DeBartolo, former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in gambling fraud scandal. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File) [GENE J. PUSKAR  |  AP]