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ESPN projects Buccaneers’ running game as one of the worst for 2018

Bucs’ backs will have lots to prove.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber runs against the Atlanta Falcons. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

There is much excitement from fans and media alike that is anxious to see rookie running back Ronald Jones II hit the field. The hope is that his quickness and elusive style mixed with some power will translate to the NFL.

Not everyone feels the same.

ESPN’s Mike Clay released his latest predictions for each team’s running attack and placed the Buccaneers near the bottom of the league.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top three backs: Ronald Jones II, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber

Projected unit stats: 364 carries, 1,512 yards, 7 TDs; 71 receptions, 591 yards, 2 TDs

Outlook: After six years on the Doug Martin roller coaster, the Bucs moved on and replaced him with Jones in the second round of April’s draft. The former USC standout is an explosive playmaker with the ability to contribute in all phases, but his 5-foot-11, 205-pound frame suggests he won’t be called on for workhorse duties. Instead, expect passing-down specialist Sims (career 9.0 yards per reception), Barber (3.92 yards per carry last season) and perhaps Jacquizz Rodgers to factor in.

From a total team perspective, total team yardage doesn’t seem so bad. He projects the Steelers to be roughly 100 yards better. But Clay seems to be down on the unit as a whole.

Peyton Barber did come on strong near the end of last season and the team is pretty optimistic of Barber and Jones out of the backfield. There is potential for a very good one-two punch out of Tampa Bay’s backfield.