Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians appears ready to let bygones be bygones when it comes to his most talented ball-carrier. Arians benched Ronald Jones II after the fourth-year running back fumbled during the first half of their Thursday night contest against the Dallas Cowboys. Jones had the ball punched out of his hands by Cowboys' defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence on the play and didn’t see another second of action after being responsible for the turnover. Jones played a measly six snaps and totaled 14 rushing yards on four carries.
Arians, who has been known to take a heavy-handed approach when it comes to ball security in the past, will apparently welcome Jones back with open arms in Week 2. Arians confirmed Jones will start against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday while speaking with the media on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s the right decision to make. Jones is easily the most talented runner in Tampa’s backfield and should get every opportunity to redeem himself going forward. Simply put, the Buccaneers’ offense is at their best when Jones is in the game.
The Buccaneers should employ Jones as their bellcow against the Falcons in Week 2. When it comes to the matchup, there is good news on the horizon for Jones. Atlanta represents the perfect bounce-back opportunity for the former USC standout. The Falcons possess one of the worst defensive depth charts in the league and just allowed a questionable Philadelphia Eagles unit to rack up 434 total yards of offense en route to 34 points.
The Falcons allowed the Eagles’ ball-carriers to rush for 173 total yards on just 31 carries, good for an average of nearly six yards per carry. Some of that was inflated by the usage of Jalen Hurts and his ability to pick up chunks of yardage with his legs, but look for Jones to get back into the thick of things by running absolutely wild on the Falcons this Sunday.
It will be interesting to monitor how much of his hand Arians is showing here. Will Jones merely get the “start” or will he lead the Buccaneers’ backfield in touches? There’s a difference between the two and we can’t wait to find out which one it is.
Jones has to make things right on Sunday. The margin for error is getting smaller. Jones, who has now put the ball on the ground six times over his last 31 games, will likely be on an incredibly short leash in the coming weeks. With talented running backs such as Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard waiting in the wings, another costly mistake could send Jones to the bench on a more permanent basis.