Backfield Breakdown: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Footballguys staff looks at how the Buccaneers backfield will shake out

This article is about a 16-minute read.

In a Backfield Breakdown, we will look at a team's running backs from all angles. Is there a bell-cow back on the roster? How about sleepers? What roles do we foresee from these backs?

Let's find out about the Buccaneers right now.

Going into the 2019 season, Peyton Barber appeared to be the top backfield option in Tampa Bay. After a terrible rookie season, most fantasy players had quickly given up on Ronald Jones II. People were so down on Jones that the undrafted two-year veteran Dare Ogunbowale was more highly thought of -- especially as a receiver -- in some circles.

Most were wrong about Jones.

While Barber did begin the season as the team's starting running back, Jones led the team in carries, rushing yards, and yards-per-carry and tied Barber is rushing touchdowns. While Ogunbowale did excel as a receiver, Jones led all running backs with 309 receiving yards.

What changed over the offseason? Barber left for Washington, and Ke'Shawn Vaughn was selected in the third round. And, just recently, veteran LeSean McCoy was signed.

Can Jones hold off the newcomers and be the primary rusher all season? Does Vaughn carve out a huge role this year? Will Ogunbowale continue as a third-down back? How does McCoy fit in?

How does this backfield shake out in 2020?

Jason Wood

As noted, Ronald Jones II was better than most of us expected. He averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, but more impressively, he was a top-10 back with 3.1 yards after contact. Curiously, he was one of the least patient runners last year, ranking toward the league bottom in time behind the line of scrimmage. That says if he could learn a bit more patience, or trust his offensive line, he has another leg of growth. A 4.5+ YPC season isn't out of the question. He also was among the league leaders at his position with a 10 yards-per-reception average.

With Tom Brady coming to town, the entire offense should be much better, and in particular more efficient in the red zone. While his per-touch performance last year was encouraging, the additions of a high-value rookie in Vaughn and a proven veteran in McCoy say that neither Bruce Arians nor Byron Leftwich is 100% bought in on Jones as a feature back.

At the risk of lazy analysis, the most logical assumption for draft purposes is a three-headed committee, with Vaughn being the odd man out initially because of a lack of offseason time to learn the system and win over the coaches. I expect Jones will get the first crack, but McCoy wouldn't have signed with Tampa Bay unless he was assured a regular amount of snaps, too. I think a 50/40/10% split snap is a good starting point for modeling the Buccaneers projections.

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