TAMPA — Ronald Jones has made major strides as a pass blocker this season, but his costly whiff on blitzing Jacksonville defender led to the Bucs’ only turnover Sunday and landed Jones on the bench.
On Monday, Bucs coach Bruce Arians made it clear that mistakes like that 13 weeks into the season will send Jones to the sideline.
It might seem abrupt, especially given how the Bucs coaching staff loves Jones’ potential and lauded his improvements as not only as a rusher, but also as a pass catcher and a blocker.
“He works his ass off, and he’s going to get better at it,” Arians said. “But we need him running the football. But you can’t run the football if you can’t protect the quarterback.”
Jones scored touchdowns in three of the previous four games and began to cement his role as the team’s primary running back. Against a Jaguars defense that had yielded more than 200 yards a game, Jones was projected to have his best of the season.
He netted a season-low eight yards on six carries and was lifted after quarterback Jameis Winston was sacked and lost the fumble.
According to Arians, Jones missed a blocking assignment switch. And on the play, it’s clear that Jones was confused, looking to provide blocking help to his left while an untouched blitzer closed in on Winston from the right.
The Jaguars blitzed often on Sunday, and Winston was sacked four times and hit seven other times.
“That was a big (play),” Arians said. “We had the game in hand. It was something that had been switched. They were going to block something because of the blitzes. He went to block the guy he used to block. That wasn’t the plan.”
Peyton Barber took Jones’ carries in the second half and was the team’s leading rusher with 44 yards on 17 carries, but take away his 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Barber averaged just 1.8 yards a carry.
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