"Hey dude, you’re our guy."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans have heard that all season, words uttered early and often by head coach Bruce Arians in regards to starting running back Ronald Jones II. He needed to be reminded of that recently, however.
Over the two games prior to the Bucs' 46-23 win against the Carolina Panthers, Jones had managed to put together 10 carries for 32 yards. Add the first two minutes and 24 seconds of Sunday's game into the equation, and Jones also had two fumbles in that stretch.
Certainly not the best stint of Jones' young career, Arians had to remind Jones that through thick and thin, he rides with him.
“Up in New York, [Jones] had a rough fumble on a ball that was on the ground," Arians recalled after the game. "This one he was trying to get a little extra. He went in the tank in New York – it really bothered him and he thought he really hurt the team. We told him, ‘Hey dude, you’re our guy.’ I knew he was going to break one sooner or later."
That he did. Following the fumble on his second touch of the day Sunday, Jones took off with a career-high 192 yards rushing on 23 attempts, the most single-game yardage by a Bucs RB since Doug Martin posted 235 against Philadelphia in 2015.
Jones broke free on a 98-yard rushing touchdown in the middle of the third quarter that extended the Bucs' lead to two possessions for the first time in the matchup. His score marks the fourth time in NFL history that a running back has scampered for 98+ yards on one rush, joining Derrick Henry (2018), Ahman Green (2003) and Tony Dorsett (1983).
Arians proclaimed that he and backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert predicted the dash pre-snap from the sidelines.
“We saw the defense and Blaine said, ‘This is going to the house,'" Arians remarked. "I said, ‘We’ve got a chance to split them.’ [And then] there he goes.”
“I saw the linebacker shift over, and then I’m thinking probably cut back to the left, and then it’s off to the races," Jones described the run. "Started looking at the jumbotron, and I’m like ‘Dang, buddy [Panthers DB Jeremy Chinn] is moving back there.’ So, I changed the angle and keep striding cold turkey. Felt good to get that long run though.”
Jones is now up to 143 carries for 730 yards (5.1 yards per rush) and five touchdowns on the season. The second-year pro isn't playing perfect ball yet, but games like Sunday prove why Arians is such a believer that Jones is the "guy" at running back for this team.
“I told him that’s what I expect of him," Arians said. "‘You’re our guy and that’s what we expect of you all the time.’ He ran great today. He feels terrible when he makes a mistake and the fumble in New York really upset him. This one, I wasn’t going to let upset him and he bounced back really strong.”