One of the bigger focal points not involving Todd Bowles and his defense this off-season is the battle of the runningbacks, with Ronald Jones III coming off a treacherous rookie season and incumbent starter from a year ago, Peyton Barber, being the expected starter again this season.
While all may seem reasonable to expect the 1-2 combo to be Barber and Jones, there are others looking to get into the debate. Bruce Arians brought in former Cardinals runningback, Andre Ellington who spent 2018 out of football. Dare Ogunbuwale and Bruce Anderson are also on the roster with the latter coming in as an undrafted free agent and was the leading rusher for NCAA FCS championship teams at North Dakota State the past two seasons.
Despite the others who have been added to the mix, the 1-2 punch is almost assuredly going to be a mix of Barber and Jones. Jones has all eyes on him after an up and down week with some highlights thrown into the mix.
Bruce Arians touched on Jones, the ups/downs and the overall competition yesterday and specifically a play that summed up what Jones can be (followed by a fumble at the end).
“Yes, it was an unbelievable run down there – just finish it – wrap it up when you are down there. He is an explosive player. He’s going to be a heck of a player for us. He’s going to make big plays like that for us. That was a third-and-13 or third-and-14 check-down [pass] and he went about 60 [yards]. But, just finish it. After the long run we got a hurry up in and then he walked in the endzone. That was a good sign.”
Arians touched on what Jones does best in his opinion (running between the tackles) as well.
“He’s probably best between the tackles, but he took that one around the end and nobody could catch him. That was really well-blocked by [Cameron] Brate and [O.J.] Howard – they really sealed the edge for him, and a really good block downfield by the receiver. So yeah, he’s got that breakaway speed and size, but his best runs so far have been tackle-to-tackle until that one.”
Ronald Jones making up for that fumble. pic.twitter.com/ihu05m1eqR— Evan Winter (@evan_winter) July 30, 2019
Lastly, Arians talked about the competition at the running back position.
“Oh yeah, it’s going to be a heck of a one-two punch. Whichever one is the one (on the depth chart) and whichever one is the two – they are both going to play.”
It sure sounds like Arians wants to believe in Jones. The team knows what they will get in Barber who spoke to the media a week ago and made comment on how he worked to improve his abilities in the passing game and on third down. It’s now up to Ronald Jones to prove he can be trusted in the passing game.
The competition will heat up soon with games fast approaching. Who will separate from the other first? Jones or Barber?