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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Time for Bucs rookie RB Ronald Jones to shine?

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Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt that the Buccaneers have had a lot of success so far on offense and most of it has been predicated on throwing the football. Starting with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick being thrust into the starting role the first two games and throwing for 400 plus yards and four touchdowns in both wins, the Bucs passing game has been on point.

Even with the return of Jameis Winston to the starting lineup the last two weeks, the Bucs continue to rack up the yards and touchdowns. Even though Winston did not have a touchdown pass last week, the Buccaneers did get in the end zone three times in the 26 – 23 win over the Browns.

So you cannot argue through six games with the Bucs having success on offense. However, if there is a glaring weakness? It is their running game.

Third-year undrafted back Peyton Barber is solid but not spectacular. And even though he had a good game in Atlanta with 82 yards rushing and a receiving touchdown, his touches and his yards have been largely underwhelming this season.

Enter rookie second round draft pick Ronald Jones from USC. Jones, who scored his first NFL touchdown (above) in the second half of the win over Cleveland last week, and saw more significant playing time as the second half and overtime more on. This is in part because Barber had injured his ankle in the third quarter of the game Sunday.

Barber was unable to practice on Wednesday, which is another indication that we may be about to see more of the explosive Jones when the Bucs travel to Cincinnati this week.

It hasn’t all been positive for the guy they call “RoJo,” as he was a healthy inactive for the first three games of the season in favor of rookie free agent running back Shaun Wilson. It was largely because the Buccaneers did not trust him enough to pass block and fully know coach Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken’s Playbook.

Also, Koetter has talked since the preseason about Jones being more decisive on his initial cut or move to get into a hole or a crease quickly. This is critical in the NFL, as opposed to running the ball in the Pac-12, where the holes are bigger and stay open longer.

Jones also has to work on his ability to catch the football and he did have one catch for 15 yards against the Browns last week.

Depending on the severity of Barbers injury, it will probably still be a mix of he, veteran Jacquizz Rodgers and Jones this weekend in the short-term.

However, the more Jones shows the potential that the Bucs drafted him for, the more he’s going to see the football moving forward.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Report- Bucs have extended GM Jason Licht’s contract

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs rookie PK Gay likely won job with clutch Friday night boot

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

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:

“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.

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