Heading into his third season, now is the time for Ronald Jones to blossom at running back for the Bucs. Tom Brady is trying to help him do that.
After a rookie year spent mostly on the sideline, Jones led the Bucs in rushing in 2019, gaining 724 yards and scoring six touchdowns on 172 carries. He added 31 receptions for 309 yards.
In 2020, Jones will shoulder most of the load in the backfield, and that includes catching more passes. When he was with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady always made good use of his backs as receiving threats.
This offseason, Jones has made it a priority to improve as a receiver and blocker, working on his technique and knowledge of the passing game. Part of that improvement means asking Brady for advice.
“He always tells me to get low in my routes and run my routes like I already have the ball,” Jones said, via the Bucs’ team website. “A lot of times I was trying to get a feel for the defense, if it was zone or man. I’m working on getting that pre-snap read and then just exploding through my routes, just finishing. I think that’s been what we’ve been working on now just in the shorts and stuff.”
Studying defenses and knowing where to be and what to do against certain coverages has been a point of emphasis for Jones this spring and summer.
“I think [about it] in terms of knowing what the defense is doing, not just out there running full-speed,” Jones said. “In a zone, having to sit down and find that soft spot. In man, actually beating your man and knowing who is covering you. That’s another thing that was really helpful about getting in that work in the offseason. With completely different quarterbacks, I can catch any kind of ball – from high school and pee-wee to obviously playing with the best in the game. It’s definitely got me ready for this moment.”
With all of the firepower at Tom Brady’s disposal at wide receiver and tight end, Jones often gets overlooked. But make no mistake, the third-year running back will need to play well in order for the Tampa Bay offense to function as anticipated this fall.