Earlier this offseason, one mock draft had the Buccaneers selecting Alabama running back Josh Jacobs with the No. 5 overall pick. Other mocks have the team addressing the position with pick No. 39. Regardless of the mock, it seems like most people agree that Tampa Bay has a need at running back.
Apparently, Bucs general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians don’t feel the same way. Speaking with the media on Tuesday, Licht said the team’s new head coach is feeling confident in the backfield situation as it stands right now, and there is a collective satisfaction with 2018 second-round pick Ronald Jones II:
More Licht on Ronald Jones: "His attitude, his willingness to do extra. You can just see the confidence rising in him."— Greg Auman (@gregauman) April 16, 2019
The first part of that quote isn’t anything new. Since Arians came on board, he’s raved about Peyton Barber. He went as far as saying Barber was one of the more surprising and impressive guys that stood out to him when he went back and watched some tape. But what’s even more interesting and perhaps encouraging about what Licht said is that second part.
Jones is one of the bigger question marks on Tampa Bay’s roster right now. The 2018 second-rounder got off to a rough start last year, but it sounds like he’s coming along and gaining the attention of some important people within the team’s facilities.
A year ago, Jones reportedly fell behind during training camp and the preseason, and former head coach Dirk Koetter didn’t give him all that many chances to get himself going throughout the season — at least on game days. That led to a 44-yard, one-touchdown season in which he averaged just 1.9 yards per carry.
But all of that is in the past, and Licht and Arians seem to be expecting a big turnaround from Jones in 2019. If the former USC Trojan can pick it up and develop into a quality NFL back, then yes, the Bucs should feel pretty great about what they have in the backfield. Barber has proven to be a tough runner, one that has managed to impress despite struggles from the offensive line and an inconsistent pattern of carries. If Jones can get rolling, Tampa Bay might finally have that deadly 1-2 punch that it was expected to have last year.
Of course, with the NFL Draft coming next week, all of this could be a giant smokescreen from Licht. Maybe the Bucs do want a running back as early as the second round, or maybe in the third. But support from Licht and Arians has seemingly been there consistently for both Barber and Jones, so who can really tell at this point? At least we know one thing: we’ll really see where things stand by the end of next weekend.