Whereas Sports Illustrated predicted the Bucs to be the second worst team in the league this upcoming season, Adam Rank, a writer for NFL.com, predicts Tampa Bay to make the playoffs. In his article, he backs up his opinion with five reasons. The reason that stands out the most is newly acquired Rookie Running Back Ronald Jones. Rank sees Jones‘ importance for the Buccaneers on the same level as that of stud Running Back Saquon Barkley’s for the New York Giants. That is quite a compliment for the quick Running Back out of USC. Also, Rank is convinced that Jones will provide some much-needed consistency in the running game that the Bucs have lacked for much too long.
Saquon Barkley is the most-talked-about rookie running back. And he should be. But Jones is just as important to his team’s development. Tampa Bay hasn’t had a lot of consistency at the position in recent years. The Bucs haven’t had a running back break a 50-yard run since 2015. Jones will change all of that. He topped more than 100 rushing yards in 13 of his last 19 games at USC, eclipsing 140 yards in seven of those contests. His name dots the record books at USC, and if I’m not mistaken, the Trojans have a pretty nice stable of backs in their proud history. Remember Ricky Bell, the prolific USC RB who went No. 1 overall in 1977 to these same Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
“Jones, who was taken 38th overall in April, is already expected to be a three-down back for the Bucs. That might surprise some, because he compiled just 40 targets in college, but converted on 32 of them. He had a pretty sick catch-and-run against Texas, which, no doubt, helped convince Tampa he can be stellar out of the backfield.”
“I just never got the sense USC did enough with him. Like, we’re going to see Sam Darnold and Jones flourish in the NFL and wonder why the Trojans didn’t win more games — as if they were coached by Les Miles or something.”
Obviously, Rank expects A LOT out of Ronald Jones right off the bat, as he already considers him the three-down back for Tampa Bay and it is only June. To be honest, the competition ahead of Jones is not very strong, so odds are pretty good for the Rookie being the Buccaneers‘ starting Running Back come Week 1 of the Regular Season.
On a side note, Jones has drawn multiple comparisons to Alvin Kamara, the New Orleans Saints’ Running Back who was drafted last year and had an excellent rookie season, as he averaged more than six yards on the ground, added 742 Receiving yards and scored a total of 12 Touchdowns. Kamara only averaged seven carries per game. On the other hand, he had another high caliber Running Back on the team in Mark Ingram and one of the best passing games in the league, that improves every Running Back’s numbers. Barring injuries, Jones will definitely average more than 7 carries a game in 2018. If he can manage to come close to Kamara’s stats as a Rookie, you can almost certainly expect the Bucs to finally play in January again and Rank’s prediction for Tampa Bay would be correct.