Running back Ronald Jones was a star in the backfield at the University of Southern California. During his collegiate career, he rushed for 3,619 yards on 591 carries. He also scored 39 touchdowns on the ground and added three more through the air on just 32 receptions. It gave him an incredible 6.1 yards-per-carry average, putting him among the top five such performers in USC history.
His first year in the NFL during the 2018 season, in short, didn’t reflect that. Jones got just 13 yards on five attempts in nine total games. However, after a rigorous offseason and the installation of an entirely new offensive system, Jones has started to shine. After a great preseason in which he looked faster, more athletic and more fluid with his hands, Jones looks to be on the verge of a breakout season – and he started with the Bucs’ season opener against the 49ers, rushing for 75 yards on 13 carries, giving him a 5.77 yards-per-carry average.
"I don’t know if [his hand] could’ve gotten any hotter unless he [would have] run through the last one and scored a couple times,” Head Coach Bruce Arians said of Jones’ performance on Sunday. “But he was very decisive and there were a lot of holes for him to be decisive in. He was running through arm tackles and that’s exactly what I expected out of him."
Jones was effective – but not on his own. Arians mentioned how there were a lot of holes opened up for Jones and that’s due to the effort by the offensive line. After saying overall he thought they held up in pass protection, Coach Arians also credited the line, with a few standout performers, for their effort in run blocking.
"Yeah, we’re a tight end to tight end, inside running team, so yeah, [center] Ryan [Jensen] did a heck of a job,” Arians said. “Ali [Marpet] had a heck of a ball game. Donovan [Smith] had a heck of a game in the run game also."