With the selection of Ronald Jones II in the second round of this year’s draft, it was clear that the Buccaneers were going to mix him into a one-two punch with third-year pro Peyton Barber. But what has seemed fairly unclear throughout the summer was which of the two would occupy the No. 1 spot.
After Monday’s practice, head coach Dirk Koetter acknowledged that Barber currently occupies the starting role. From Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:
“Peyton is our starter,” Koetter said Monday. “We’re definitely going to use Ronald Jones and take advantage of what he’s going to do. We do have the two veteran backs behind him. Again, we’ve got three more preseason games. Let’s just let it sort out a little more.”
Koetter appears to be sending mixed signals here, as he both names a starter and says there’s still time to sort things out. Regardless, it seems that Barber is making it hard for Jones to come in and take over as the lead guy, despite what many have predicted over the last few months. Koetter later made it obvious that Tampa Bay won’t be using a three-down back, noting how difficult it is to rely on just one guy with the way the NFL is nowadays.
Barber got almost all of the snaps with the starting offense in the preseason opener against the Dolphins, rushing for 21 yards and a touchdown on four carries. In 2017, he was the lone bright spot in a poor Buccaneer backfield. He finished the year as the team’s leading rusher with 423 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Doug Martin had 30 more carries than him, but put up just 406 yards.
Jones only nine yards on eight carries in last Thursday’s preseason opener, but did pick up his first touchdown. He saw most of his snaps behind a second team offensive line that was missing a few guys, so his lack of production shouldn’t be all that alarming.
Rotating in behind Barber could be what’s best for the rookie as he continues to further develop as a pass-catcher and improve his pass-blocking. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get some snaps with the starters as the preseason rolls on, but it’s more than clear that the Bucs have no plans on phasing Barber out of the mix. For now, and potentially for the foreseeable future, Barber is the “one” in what should be a strong one-two threat.