It’s safe to say that finding a starting caliber running back was a high priority for the Bucs. The team finished last season ranked 27th in rushing yards with 1,450 and only managed eight touchdowns on the ground.
Tampa released long-term Buccaneer Doug Martin after yet another mediocre performance in 2017. That move created an even bigger hole in the backfield and the team waited until day two of the draft to fill it.
With the 38th overall pick the Bucs picked Ronald Jones II from USC. Now the question is where does Jones fit in with the rest of the Buccaneers running back core, and who will be left out.
Current Running Backs: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones II, Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers, Shaun Wilson, Dalton Crossan
Potential Starters: Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II
Long gone are the days of the NFL where teams used one feature back. More and More teams are beginning to use multiple backs, usually featuring a duo or committee style backfield. With the Buccaneers, it is no secret who that duo is going to be, Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II.
With Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Charles Sims all failing to impress, the Bucs now turn to Barber to lead the way. His numbers were dwarfed in comparison to other team’s top backs, but is a step in the right direction. He finished the year 1st on the team with 423 yards and was tied for the team lead in rushing touchdowns with three. While slated as the starter right now, Barber will have to fight off a young, hungry runner all year.
Jones is a dynamic back and was chosen early in the second round to make an immediate impact. At USC Jones showcased his running style on his way to 3,619 yards and 39 touchdowns over three seasons. In an interview with Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, head coach Dirk Koetter couldn’t stop raving about Jones’ explosive running style.
Well, Ronald is what we thought, You can see the guy has got juice. I mean I’m sure everybody out here saw it. When he touches the ball, he’s got a gear that we don’t have on our team right now. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a lot to learn. But you can see from his USC tape, but it’s great to see him out here and see him in our colors.
Don’t expect Jones to sit in Barber’s shadow for long. Eventually, his skill set will push him to the top of the depth chart.
Fighting For A Spot: Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Shaun Wilson, Dalton Crossan
After Barber and Jones, the Buccaneers’ running back depth is a bit murky. There are four guys all fighting for potentially two spots and each one has just as good a shot as any to take it.
Jacquizz Rodgers would be my bet to be the third back in the Bucs rotation. Rodgers was with Koetter in Atlanta from 2012-2014 and that should give him an upper hand. Since being in Tampa, Rodgers has rushed for 804 yards, with a 4.2 yards per carry average, and three touchdowns.
The longest-tenured back for the Buccaneers is Charles Sims but that soon could be coming to an end. Since being drafted in 2014 Sims has failed to reach 200 yards rushing in three of his four seasons, and has only two touchdowns to his name. Rushing yards don’t tell the whole story though since Sims has been primarily a pass-catching back. However that role could be filled by Rodgers or Shaun Wilson.
Wilson was an undrafted free agent this year out of Duke where he had success on the ground and through the air. He rushed for 2,463 yards and 18 touchdowns while also hauling in 725 receiving yards along with six touchdowns. Wilson primarily will be used on special teams but could find himself in the rotation if an injury occurs.
Unfortunately, there might not be room for Dalton Crossan. After being cut last preseason by the Colts, the Bucs signed Crossan as a depth back in February. With five other running backs to compete with and nothing to really make him stand out, Crossan will most likely be fighting for a spot somewhere else.