It's no secret that the Bucs needed to address the running game this offseason. They did just that by selecting running back Ronald Jones II out of USC in the second round of this past year's draft. The hope is that Rojo, as he's known, will bring more balance to the offense by giving Tampa Bay its new feature back.
Veteran running back Peyton Barber did some good things last year for the Bucs' ground game, though. He was the only back to surpass the 100-yard mark in a game last season. Even with the addition of Jones, there is room for the two to complement each other. According to today's practice, that's just what the Bucs have started doing.
Jones was bumped up and taking reps with the first team along with Barber. In individual drills, running backs will catch passes from the quarterbacks in order to work on their pass-catching ability, and therefore versatility, as a unit. It's something Jones knew he would have to work on after not being targeted as much in passes within his college system while he was at USC.
Last season, Jones amassed 1,550 rushing yards for the Trojans on 261 carries, giving him a 5.9 yards per carry average. It was his second consecutive 1,000+ yard season. In contrast, Jones only had 187 receiving yards on 14 receptions, which actually marked the most he tallied across his three-year collegiate career.
Jones' success within the Bucs' offense will be pretty reliant on his ability to start incorporating receiving yards into his game. We know what he can do once he has the ball in his hands, but there will need to be variety in how it gets there at the NFL level. He seems to have the potential. Watching him in individual drills, he was able to track a long ball down the sideline over his shoulder and make the grab pretty seamlessly. How that translates into a game will be largely based on how many reps he gets in practice and training camp will be just the time for those reps.
Of course, his running game looks to be all it was touted to be. He's sure-footed, quick and surprisingly strong. He's been a joy to watch even with no pads. Expect more Rojo highlights to come as the pads come on in the coming days and keep an eye out for Jones.