It’s the “Fourth of July,” and America is celebrating it’s independence. To that end, Thursday not only means patriotism, but plenty of “F’s,” as in, family, food and of course, fireworks. So, with that in mind, we decided to take a look at three players for the state NFL teams that are poised for “explosive” seasons.
First, the criteria is that they are offensive players (yes, we’ve heard “defense wins championships”) and specifically, guys that can turn ordinary plays/small gains into long memorable touchdowns to be replayed repeatedly on social media and the internet.
With that in mind, here are the three names we came up with and why:
Ronald Jones- RB, Buccaneers
To say that that Jones’ rookie year was wasted by head coach Dirk Koetter and offensive coordinator Todd Monken would be pretty accurate. As we have previously written, Jones, a second round pick a year ago out of USC, was a healthy inactive for the opening three games of the season. He was then gradually given small opportunities to carry the ball in October before hurting his hamstring in a game in Cincinnati.
However, the biggest puzzlement was, when Jones returned healthy in the final month of the season, and with Tampa Bay eliminated from playoff contention in their final three games, Jones was active but not playing.
Again, as we wrote above, a waste.
So, with Koetter and Monken fired and new coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich hired, it’s already been been obvious that they want to include Jones more in their game plans. They have been very complimentary to this point about how hard Jones is working and how they look forward to using his speed in space.
And, anyone that watched his repeated big plays at USC, knows that if you get him that space, he will give Tampa Bay’s offense a dimension that it hasn’t had in years- a back that can race 70, 80 yards for touchdowns at any moment.
Kenny Stills- WR, Dolphins
He’s Miami’s top target and big play threat over the course of his last four seasons in South Florida. Stills was still very productive a year ago, despite the shoulder injury to QB Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins’ season fizzling out. That eventually led to the firing of head coach Adam Gase.
Stills’ 37 catches were his fewest since his first year in Miami in 2015 However he still averaged almost 15 yards per reception and his six touchdowns matched his output from 2017. Now, with new head coach Brian Flores and his new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, Stills will be looked upon to help stretch the defense.
It will help him and the scheme, if injured big play threats Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant return healthy to the lineup this fall. And, another bonus for Stills is that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick demonstrated at the beginning of last year that he could hit Buccaneer big play threats DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans with big plays early on in the season.
Of course, that supposes that Fitzpatrick beats out second-year quarterback Josh Rosen, who Miami acquired from the Cardinals on draft weekend.
But no matter the QB, the 27 year old Stills has the best chance to be the Dolphins best big-play weapon for their offense this upcoming year.
Leonard Fournette- RB, Jaguars
A player that is in desperate need of an explosive season is the former 4th overall pick for Jacksonville in the 2017 draft. Fournette showed his home-run hitting capability in his rookie season with a 90 yard touchdown run to seal the upset regular season win over the Steelers. And then, displayed his great speed and explosiveness again with a 75-yard touchdown run on the opening play from scrimmage against the Rams at home. This led to Fournette having a thousand-yard season and being a key part of Jacksonville making the playoffs in 2017.
But, what a difference a year makes as 2018 rolled around, and Fournette was injured in the opening game with the Giants. His hamstring injury kept him out of six of the next eight games and the Jacksonville offense sputtered without him eventually seeing coordinator Nathaniel Hackett being fired in November.
The Jaguars have replaced Hackett with former Eagles quarterback coach and Vikings offensive coordinator last season John DeFilippo. And more importantly for Fournette and the offense, they brought in Eagles free-agent quarterback Nick Foles. So, it’s really the first time in Fournette’s career that the deep past game will become a complimentary weapon to help open up some run opportunities for him.
Fournette had issues with discipline a year ago, including being ejected for fighting in the loss to Buffalo in November and suspended the following week by the NFL. He also was publicly rebuked by V.P. of Football Tom Coughlin for his behavior and seeming disinterest in the season finale’ loss to the Houston Texans.
Fournette was also arrested for speeding and outstanding unpaid traffic violations earlier this year in Jacksonville. However, that has been cleared up without Fournette seeing additional any jail time.
Now, it’s time to see if his third year will be a big bounce back one for Jacksonville’s ultimate weapon out of the backfield.
And if he’s healthy, look for Fournette to make plenty of those game-changing plays.
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.