Coming into 2019, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians sounded committed to splitting time evenly between his top two running backs — Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II.
Through five weeks, he has stayed true to that. The duo has been moderately effective. So far this season, Barber has 214 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries (3.5 yards per carry), while Jones has been a bit better, posting 269 yards and a touchdown on 59 carries (4.6 YPC). Together, they have combined for 483 yards and four touchdowns on 120 carries. That’s good for an average of four yards per carry.
Simply looking at the split in carries — Barber’s 61 to Jones’ 59 — would make the playing time split seem pretty even. But diving deeper into the snap count further cements it.
In five games, Barber has played 130 of Tampa Bay’s 335 offensive snaps, which equals about 39%. Jones has played 107 of the 335, which is a slightly lower 32%. Then again, think back to Week 2. In the Bucs’ 20-14 win over the Panthers, Barber played 40 snaps. Jones, on the other hand, was banged up. He only played seven offensive snaps.
When you eliminate that Week 2 outlier, the split is even more even. Combining Weeks 1, 3, 4 and 5, Barber has played 90 of the team’s 275 snaps, which equals out to roughly 33%. Jones has actually gotten more snaps in those four weeks, playing 100 of 275, which is about 36%.
Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see how Arians handles the backfield. Barber has been the “starter” each week, but Jones has typically been more explosive in his snaps. The Bucs are averaging 109.4 yards per game on the ground, which is around the middle of the pack (18th in the NFL). Might Arians start leaning more on Jones, or will the near 50-50 split continue?