There is a lot of optimism in the Buccaneers backfield for 2018. Third year back Peyton Barber has worked hard, waited his turn, and is set to be the featured back, as 2018 begins.
And, then there’s explosive USC rookie Ronald Jones.
Taken in the second round of April’s draft, Bucs fans and observers are anxious to see if his speed and big play capabilities from the Trojans and Pac 12 play are going to translate into NFL Sundays. If they do, Tampa Bay will have a dimension to their offensive attack that has been missing for a long time.
However, there’s something equally as important that’s going to help Jones stay on the field more, as his rookie season unfolds.
And, it’s not flashy.
And it more than likely won’t end up on the highlights on NFL Network or ESPN.
It’s called pass protection or “pass pro,” in present day football lingo.
For years, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for incoming first year players in the backfield is the inability to know their blocking assignments, pick up that blitzing linebacker or safety, etc.
In short, they don’t know “pass pro.”
Tuesday at Bucs camp, Jones was getting a taste of what it will take if he wants to be on the field, especially on 3rd down, and here were some examples.
The Pewter Report.com was up close with Jones on a couple of occasions and got a great look at the intensive effort to help him learn techniques and protection plans. First, here he was with running backs coach Tim Spencer going over footwork and body position:
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) July 31, 2018
And then, came another big part of the “pass pro learning curve.” Jones having to put what’s been discussed in the meeting room, on practice tape or in a drill into motion in a “game-like situation.”
In this case, the rookie Jones is responsible for blocking Bucs dynamic linebacker Kwon Alexander in this drill. And while you have to look through some bodies to see it, you get the idea of the importance and challenge:
RB Ronald Jones vs. LB Kwon Alexander pic.twitter.com/yqVxLpG13V
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) July 31, 2018
The real test will be, when the Buccaneers line up against the Dolphins, etc. in actual live game situations in the preseason starting next week.
And if Jones needs yet another reminder of whether something as fundamental as “pass pro” is important, then look no further than last year’s fifth round pick RB Jeremy McNichols.
A player that Tampa Bay thought could be part of their future in the backfield turned out to not be able to handle blocking. He was famously chewed out and benched by coach Dirk Koetter in a scene from HBO’s all access show “Hard Knocks,” when he missed a blocking assignment in a game. The show documented his struggle with learning that part of the game.
Interestingly, in some of the scenes from the show, Peyton Barber was seen and heard encouraging McNichols that he had struggled to pick up blitzers, etc. in pass protection and was trying to help the Boise State rookie.
Ultimately, McNichols was cut by the Bucs at the end of camp before you could spell “b-l-o-c-k.”
Now, it wasn’t the sole reason, but it certainly was a glaring weakness.
A weakness that can be a problem for Jones, or any young back.
Now, we will see how he handles it.
Bucs coach Arians again non-committal Tuesday on QB Winston
It’s become increasingly apparent, that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are ready to move on from potential free agent quarterback Jameis Winston. And Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, coach Bruce Arians gave the latest example that he and the Buccaneers front office will look at the other options available first.
Arians spoke at a podium on numerous subjects, but the most prominent is what Tampa Bay will do in the coming days with Winston?
— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) February 25, 2020
Arians was asked directly about potential for a franchise tag for his starter a year ago and what the Bucs might proceed to do? But, he refused to endorse that option on the former number one overall pick Winston. And, the Bucs coach maintained that the team will possibly us the franchise tag for defensive end Shaq Barrett.
Further, Arians gave a pointed specific answer on Winston’s poor play last December as the team finished 7-9 and that has the team looking at other options,
Arians on Winston and why it’s still uncertain: “December wasn’t what I wanted to see.”
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) February 25, 2020
Arians has consistently refused back Winston since the off-season began. This included at an NFL coaching seminar earlier this month in Tampa. He said to the media at that time:
“Really nothing has changed,” Arians said. “What’s Door No. 2? You know? Can we make the one we have better? All those things you go through right now.”
“You’re just sitting there waiting to see is there someone available? … Is he a better option?
The Buccaneers faltered in the middle of the season to drop to 3-7 and then, Winston and Co. blew its final two games to finish 7 – 9 with Winston throwing a career-high 30 interceptions.
After their final loss at home to Atlanta in overtime, where Winston threw the game losing “pick six,” Arians was candid after the final game by saying about Winston’s play that it would have to be evaluated pass by pass and game by game in the off-season. Further, he told the media then, that there “was some great and some terrible…. and you have to decide, if the great outweighs the terrible.”
While Winston did throw for a career-high 5000 + yards in 2019, his interceptions and total turnovers continued to be his downfall throughout the season. The Buccaneers finished 1 – 6 in games against teams with winning records and Winston had 17 total turnovers in those seven games. He finished with the 30 picks that included 10 of them in the Bucs final four games.
Tampa Bay obviously will have the opportunity to go after a free agent quarterback or two, as there is much speculation about the likes of Tom Brady with the Patriots. Plus, Philip Rivers will not be re-signed by the Chargers and is available come March. And, now that Drew Brees has announced he wants to play at least one more year for the Saints, their backup Teddy Bridgewater will be in demand on the market.
The Bucs are also continuing the evaluating the QB class for the Draft the next few days in Indy, which could have some interesting names still available in the second and third rounds and beyond.
Bucs confirmed Monday they will have new uniforms in 2020
On Monday, the Bucs confirmed what they have been hinting at, they will have new uniforms in 2020. But the real question is: what does “new” mean in this instance?
We heard you!
New uniforms coming April 2020. pic.twitter.com/e7qNUsNWZb
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) February 24, 2020
The Bucs also released a statement through their website confirming that April will be the unveiling of the new uniforms, as well as, potential new color scheme, logo, etc. and had these comments from co – owner, Ed Glazer:
“We have heard the feedback from our fans loud and clear and have been working with the NFL and our league partners at Nike to usher in a new look as we enter this next decade of Buccaneers football. We look forward to revealing more details in the near future about our official unveiling event which will take place later this spring.”
As we wrote earlier this month, the Buccaneers have been hinting at trying to enhance their uniforms and there is some belief there will be more orange, the original color of the franchise. There is also educated speculation that the team may go back to a white helmet, which will enable them to have “throwback uniform games” that they’ve not been able to have for the last seven seasons.
This is because under league concussion protocol, players must have the same helmet all season and the Bucs primary one has been pewter in color since their chance in colors and logo in 1997,
The Bucs last altered their uniforms in 2014 by brightening the color red and slightly changing the logo and making it bigger on their pewter helmet. Teammates Ryan Jensen and Mike Evans are shown in the current color scheme, etc. above.
NFL teams have to submit changes in their colors and logos a year in advance. So obviously, this has been in the works for the Glazer family that owns the team for some time.
It should be noted that the Buccaneers NFC South Rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, have already made mention that they are changing their uniforms and color scheme. And, it’s believed that they will go back in 2020 to their original base color of red including possibly red helmets and potentially, primarily gray pants that they wore for over twenty years.
The Falcons have had black helmets for the better part of 30 years going back to Jerry Glanville changing the color scheme to primarily black jerseys in his days at the Falcons coach in the early 1990s.
Back to the Bucs. There is no other team in the NFL that has orange as their primary jersey color. The Bengals Broncos and Browns have occasionally worn orange “alternate jerseys” but not full time.
So, if the Glazers are again embracing a change to mostly orange jerseys, it will be unique. The video Monday showed a red jersey on a sewing machine, which could be a clue or could be misdirection of what the team actually intends to unveil in April.