Ronald Jones is getting better and better as the season goes on. In the absence of fellow running back Leonard Fournette and with the injury to LeSean McCoy, RoJo has been the guy for the Bucs in the last two games. The result? Back to back 100+ yard rushing performances from the third year back.
A lot of that is RoJo’s ability to continue churning out yards after the initial hit. We’ve seen as the games go on, RoJo begins to turn those two and three yard gains into eight or nine yard gains, wearing the defense down and picking his spots. It’s almost as if his vision gets better the deeper into the game he gets and the more opportunities he is given.
When asked about Jones’ emergence over the last few weeks - especially his yards after contact - head coach Bruce Arians told the media;
“I think he knows the offense, he knows what to expect, he knows the blocking schemes. I think he made Roquan Smith miss dead in the hole twice. I wouldn’t say there was any contact, but he made him miss. He’s always had that ability [and] he’s really got much better patience. He’s not running as fast to the hole and [he’s] seeing things better this year like he did near the end of last year. He’s just growing in the offense.
He’s a guy going into the season [who] we knew we could feed 20-25 times. Then, getting Shady, getting Leonard – you give him a blow. I don’t have any trouble handing it to him 20- 25 times and throwing it to him five or six. He can handle that load.”
It’s RoJo’s ability to gain yards and forcing defenses to respect the run game that opens up the play-action options for Tom Brady and the receivers. The biggest gripe may be that offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich abandons the run for too long at times and puts the responsibility squarely on Tom Brady and the receivers to move the ball - leading to some three-and-outs in the past couple of weeks.
Jones was asked what was different about this year and how he’s been able to gain as many yards as he has the last two games and he had this to say;
“First off, it’s got to be the offensive line getting it done up front. Then in the offseason, I worked on adding muscle and strength – running hills and all of that. I think it’s just all coming into play and helping my game move forward in year three.
Obviously, you need to get the victories and the touchdowns to score and win the game, but it was good. Again, the offensive line is doing the dirty work for me and making my job look easy. We look forward to doing it [again] and getting some wins on the table.”
Jones has another major opportunity this week against the Packers where he should be a big part of the game plan. Keeping Aaron Rodgers and the NFL’s number one offense on the sidelines for long stretches should be a key focal point and in order to do that, RoJo is going to have to have another big game.
The Packers’ run defense is currently allowing 105.8 rushing yards per game which sits eighth best in the NFL. However - from a fantasy perspective - they are allowing the most fantasy points in the NFL to opposing running backs. No question some of those are through the air, but running backs are having a lot of success against this Green Bay defense and the Bucs will look to expose that this Sunday.
The Packers’ defense is allowing the twelfth most total yards per game and the seventeenth most points per game - a full three points per game more than the Buccaneers - in the league. This one is going to be a high scoring affair and the Bucs need to make sure they continue to feed Ronald Jones all day long.