Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones III gave an interesting take on life with COVID-19 Tuesday after the team’s bye week.
“(A) lot of adjustments, a lot of Uber eats,” Jones said according to Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud via Twitter.
#GoBucs RB Ronald Jones says dealing with COVID-19 has different as a person. “Lot of adjustments, a lot of Uber eats,” and things like that.
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) December 8, 2020
Jones meant life in general with COVID, not having it. He’s coming off fresh from a bye week and said he “feels good,” according to WFLA’s Gabrielle Shirley via Twitter.
the #Bucs RB Ronald Jones: “My body feels good coming fresh off of this bye week”
— Gabrielle Shirley (@WFLAGabrielle) December 8, 2020
Jones hopes for uber handoffs or being fed the ball often from Bucs quarterback Tom Brady this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (6-6). The fourth-leading rusher in the league for yards, Jones will compete opposite of one of the top backs in the league in Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, who ranks second for rushing yards.
Jones said he respects Cook’s game and picks up things here and there, according to Pewter Report via Twitter.
#Bucs RB Ronald Jones II says that Dalvin Cook’s vision and footwork is really good. He’s watched a lot of his film and tries to add stuff to his game.
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) December 8, 2020
Jones actually ranks ahead of Cook in yards per carry with Jones going for 5.06 yards per attempt versus Cook’s 4.98 according to Buccaneers.com’s Carmen Vitali via Twitter. Unlike Cook, Jones doesn’t carry as heavy a load with 89 fewer carries.
As The Athletic’s Greg Auman noted via Twitter, the Bucs’ running game has been quiet on a historical scale this season.
Bucs are in their 45th season of football, and despite Ronald Jones’ success, this year’s team is on pace to rank 43rd out of those 45 in rushing attempts per game, behind only 2014 (2-14 record) and 2011 (4-12). https://t.co/zpX88NpjUw
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 8, 2020
Jones running the ball well will help one historical trend the Bucs absolutely want to end — a 13-year playoff drought. The Bucs (7-5) hold the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs by a thread of the season ended Wednesday, and the Vikings lurk right behind in the No. 7 spot.
If Not Behind
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians made it clear that he wants Jones to get the ball, but the Bucs need to end the slow starts to do so.
“He’s having a heck of a year, and when things are good, he’s got 20 touches,” Arians said according to Stroud. “We’ve just got to stay in the ballgames earlier and not fall behind. That is what we try to do every week. I thought in the Kansas City game we did a good job of staying in the game plan, keeping him going and getting back in the ballgame. He is where we start.”
Stroud noted that the Bucs also need to improve running on first downs as the team mustered four yards per attempt, below the league average of 4.4 yards.
It doesn’t help when the Bucs also trail their respective opponent. The Bucs have been outscored 52-7 in first quarters during the past four games.
That’s meant the offensive load falls on Brady instead of Jones. Brady solely carrying the team hasn’t worked of late with seven interceptions in four games.
Tampa will need to slow down Cook to beat the Vikings.
The former Florida State back averages 20.9 carries per game, and his touches have only increased since early November. The Vikings won five of its past six games with Cook shouldering the load with four 100-yard games and six touchdowns in that stretch.
Arians had high praise for Cook in Tuesday’s press conference according to Auman via Twitter.
Arians says Vikings’ Dalvin Cook is “arguably the best back in the league” and featured as such, and said Jefferson has been strong as a rookie but “don’t ever forget Thielen, because he’s the go-to guy.”
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 8, 2020
Arians alluded that slowing down the Vikings’ passing game will be key, too, as the Vikings have solid receivers in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. The Bucs’ secondary got torched its last two times out against the Rams and Chiefs.
Tampa will be seeking uber improvement on the defensive end this Sunday.
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