Arians says Jones still the starter in Bucs’ backfield
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians reiterated Thursday that Ronald Jones is still the starter in the team’s ever-crowded backfield despite the signing of Leonard Fournette.
Arians said last month that Jones would “carry the load” for the team this season, and that was before the arrival of Fournette, whom the Bucs signed Wednesday.
“It’s his job. Nothing’s changed for him,” Arians said of Jones. “We’ve just added a heck of a piece of insurance and [we’ll] see what kind of role he can cut out,” Arians said. “But RoJo — it’s his job if he wins it or loses it. He’s already got it, so he’s gonna have to screw it up. I don’t see that happening.”
Arians said 32-year-old LeSean McCoy, who has rushed for 11,071 yards in 11 NFL seasons, “is ready for his role” after signing with the team in August.
Tampa Bay also drafted two running backs (Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Raymond Calais) in April. The roster also includes Dare Ogunbowale, who caught 35 passes for 286 yards out of the Bucs’ backfield in 2019.
Jones, who turned 23 last month, led the Bucs in carries (172) and rushing yards (724) and tied for the team lead with six rushing touchdowns in 2019. He added 31 catches for 309 yards in 16 games.
Fournette is expected to practice with the team Tuesday, at the earliest, after completing his physical and COVID-19 testing protocol. Arians said Fournette could possibly play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1.
“If I know him, he’ll be pretty fast-paced,” Arians said. “So we’ll try to get him up to speed as fast as we can and see if he can have a role for next week.”
Fournette was placed on waivers Monday after the Jacksonville Jaguars failed to trade the No. 4 overall pick from the 2017 draft. Fournette, who was entering the final year of his contract, cleared waivers and became a free agent Tuesday afternoon.
ESPN reported Fournette, 25, filed a grievance against the Jaguars to recoup his $4.17 million base salary.
He had 2,631 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in three seasons with the Jaguars. Last year, Fournette amassed 1,152 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 265 carries in 15 games for Jacksonville. He added a career-high 76 receptions for 522 yards.
–Field Level Media