The Buccaneers had high hopes in 2018 for second round draft pick, Ronald Jones. However, much like their 5-11 season a year ago, it never really materialized.
Now, with Dirk Koetter and his coaching staff fired and new head coach Bruce Arians and his staff in place, it appears that Jones is going to be given every opportunity to re-emerge, as the big-time play making running back the Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht drafted out of USC.
Arians was on Tampa Bay sports radio station 95.3 WDAE Tuesday morning prior to the Bucs second day of mandatory minicamp workouts. And, he made it clear that Jones is improving in this second offseason:
— Tampa Bay's Sports Radio WDAE 🎙 (@953WDAE) June 5, 2019
“Ro-jo (Jones) has been really, really solid this entire camp…I can’t wait to see him with the pads on (July),” Arians told the station. When asked about why Jones didn’t play more in 2018, Arians quickly deadpanned, “I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t here.”
Clearly, Arians wants competition in the backfield, as the Bucs running game has struggled for each of the past three seasons. Tampa Bay essentially turning to undrafted free agent, Peyton Barber as the main ball carrier last year. The design had been to have Jones be the complementary back, who is much more explosive for long runs and big plays than Barber is.
However, Jones had issues, as a lot of rookies do, not only picking up the Buccaneers playbook, but improving with things like pass blocking and receiving to enable him to be on the field all the time.
As Jones struggled to get anything done in the preseason, he obviously got in Koetter and offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s dog house. To the point, they left the second round pick as a healthy inactive at the beginning of the year for the first three games, apparently trying to send a message to him about work ethic and level of play.
Later in the first half of the season Jones eventually worked his way back to the active roster but ended up injuring his hamstring in late Octover, which sidelined him for five more games. By the time he returned to health, the Buccaneers season was basically in the tank.
Still, even then, Koetter and Monken didn’t utilize Jones with a single carry despite him being active for final three weeks of the season. And that, despite the Buccaneers being out of any playoff hopes.
Now, Jones has a fresh start and has spent an off season under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and running backs coach Harold Goodwin. And, at least for now it seems, he’s headed towards getting a legitimate opportunity to be the impact contributor moving forward that everyone wants him to be.
Report- Bucs have extended GM Jason Licht’s contract
Hoping to practice some form of continuity, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reportedly extended the contract of GM Jason Licht.
This after a report Saturday morning from Bucs beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times, Rick Stroud, that Licht has been given a five-year contract extension to remain with the team:
Bucs signed general manager Jason Licht to a new five year deal https://t.co/g8fswc0gyJ
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) August 17, 2019
A big part of the reason why the Glazer family, which owns the team, wanted to keep Licht is: his ability to lure former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to come out of retirement and join them this past January.
Further, Stroud reports that Arians made it a condition of his coming out of retirement that Licht remain with the team long-term and that the Bucs keep embattled starting QB Jameis Winston.
Licht had been given a one-year extension for 2019 before this offseason, and the Buccaneers had already committed to keep quarterback Jameis Winston for the fifth year option of his rookie contract. Then, once former coach Dirk Koetter was fired in January, Licht’s previous relationship with Arians helped the Bucs get their new coach.
Licht was the assistant general manager with the Cardinals, when Arians was hired in 2013 and led them eventually to the NFC Championship Game in 2014.
Licht became the Buccaneers general manager at that the start of that same season, but has had a rocky tenure of results. This includes only one winning season out of five and several free agent moves and draft picks that have backfired.
None bigger than when Licht traded up in the 2016 draft for FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round, only to have Aguayo falter and be released the following year in training camp.
Licht has also had free agent busts like former Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker and last year, Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry. Both of whom we’re paid heavily but did nothing in their one season before being released.
Licht and his staff do deserve some credit for finding unheralded players like tight end Cameron Brate, running back Peyton Barber and former wide receiver Adam Humphries. All of whom were undrafted and have been quality contributors over the last couple of seasons.
The team had no official comment on Stroud’s report of the extension.
Bucs rookie PK Gay likely won job with clutch Friday night boot
It’s not over, but it’s almost over. For all intents and purposes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicking competition ended Friday night with :06 remaining in their second preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. That’s when rookie Matt Gay hammered a 48-yard game winning field goal that almost certainly confirmed that he will be the Bucs opening-day placekicker.
Relive the moment here, as the Utah rookie put it through the uprights and gave Tampa Bay a 16-14 win over the Dolphins:
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 17, 2019
“I owe it all to those game situations that we practice every day in practice. Bruce [Arians] does them for a reason and when you get out there in the game, it just feels like the practice situation because you’ve done it. So, you’re able to have the nerves calm to be able to go out there and do what you need to do,” Gay said to the media post game.
The Bucs were seemingly beaten when Dolphins backup quarterback Jake Rudock led Miami into the endzone in the final :45 and the Fins also got the two-point conversion for a 14 – 13 lead.
However, Buccaneers backup quarterback Ryan Griffin returned the favor, moving Tampa Bay into field-goal range quickly with a 27-yard completion to backup tight end Tanner Hudson that set up Gay’s game-winning attempt.
The rookie, who had made a Heinz Field record 55-yarder to end the first half in Pittsburgh in the preseason opener Last Friday Night, responded with a booming kick the curled perfectly down the middle. And, it gave Coach Bruce Arians a victory in his second preseason game as new Bucs head coach.
“We’ve done that 34-second one with two timeouts before and I thought Griff executed it to perfection and obviously Matty hit the field goal so it was a big win,” Arians told the media post game.
Gay, whom the Buccaneers drafted in April with 5th round pick, has been expected to win the kicking job from veteran Cairo Santos, who finished 2018 on the Buccaneers roster. Gay has the much stronger leg and Santos’ best hope to make the team was: if he continued to accurately knock field goals and extra points through and have Gay repeatedly misfire.
That has not happened.
And, it seems at this point academic that the rookie will be the Bucs opening day kicker.
However, what happens after the regular season begins is a whole other discussion.
As we have written repeatedly, the Bucs have been a revolving door of kickers over the course of the last five years. This includes, Tampa Bay infamously picking Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round in 2016 only to have Aguayo falter badly in his rookie year.
And, he was cut after the first preseason game of his second year in 2017.
Gay does not lack for confidence, as he’s talked throughout the build-up to preseason that he embraces the pressure that comes with trying to solidify the Buccaneers kicking woes. Now, it appears that the only thing that would prevent him from having the chance in the regular-season to do that is, if he were to somehow get injured at the start of the year.
But, after Friday night’s finish, Gay looks like everything the Bucs and GM Jason Licht hoped he would be- a stone-cold clutch performer who can deliver, when is team needs him the most.