1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

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]
Published Sep. 12

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. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl titles with the Giants. ADAM HUNGER  |  AP
    His legacy is intact as rookie Daniel Jones will start against Tampa Bay.
  2. The NFC South quarterbacks -- the Panthers' Cam Newton, the Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Saints' Drew Brees are in various states of duress. It could add up to an advantage for the Bucs, but Coach Bruce Arians says pay no attention. Associated Press
    Saints’ Drew Brees, Panthers’ Cam Newton battling injuries, but Tampa Bay coach wants an inward focus
  3. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Caleb Benenoch participates in drills during training camp at the team's practice facility, One Buc Place, in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 29, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Former fifth-round pick reportedly received a lot of interest after being cut by Tampa Bay.
  4. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and coach Doug Marrone got into heated exchange on the sidelines Sunday during the Jaguars' game against the Texans. The next day, reports surfaced that Ramsey had requested to be traded. STEPHEN B. MORTON  |  Associated Press
    The answer depends on the Bucs’ answers to other questions. Are they Super Bowl contenders? Are they willing to give up on their recent draft picks? How committed are they to Jameis Winston?
  5. The Giants will start Daniel Jones (8) against the Bucs on Sunday. MICHAEL AINSWORTH  |  AP
    New York will start Daniel Jones against a Tampa Bay team that hasn’t fared well against first-year signal callers in recent years.
  6. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston hopes to have his team dressed for success as the season moves forward, but to do so he'll need to generate more offense. Tampa Bay plays host to the Giants on Sunday. BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    In 2018, Tampa Bay fielded one of the league’s best passing units. Now it’s struggling.
  7. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees watches from the sidelines after getting hurt during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles. Brees has been diagnosed with a torn ligament near the thumb of his throwing hand that is expected to sideline him at least six weeks, said a person familiar with the situation. Brees has elected to have surgery, but it is not yet clear when the operation will take place or who will perform it, the person said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What Drew Brees’ injury and Cam Newton’s lingering problems mean for the Bucs. Plus: A first look at the Lightning.
  8. Bucs coach Bruce Arians has helped the team to a 1-1 record. The won-loss mark isn't surprising, but how they've done it has turned some heads. BRIAN BLANCO  |  AP
    For some Times staff writers, the outlook appears a little brighter. Others? Not so much
  9. Colin Kaepernick was the 49ers starting quarterback at one point, then his kneeling for the national anthem created controversy. AP
    As QBs are lost to injuries, the national anthem protester draws no interest.
  10. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees leaves the field after their loss against the Los Angeles Rams during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles. Brees left the game after being hurt in the first half. MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP
    The Saints quarterback could miss six games with a thumb injury, which means the NFC South may be up for grabs after all.