TAMPA, Fla. — When Leonard Fournette signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, coach Bruce Arians said Ronald Jones was still his starter at running backs.
He repeated this throughout the season. But after Fournette, who re-signed four days ago, allowed 448 yards or scrimmage in four postseason games en route to a Super Bowl title, Arians is leaving the door open on who will start in 2021.
No. That will all be determined by workouts, OTAs, training camp and the preseason, Arians said Tuesday.
There are no snacks. This is a new football team. When they left, I made it clear that this team had won the Super Bowl. This team is not… All this will be verified in practice.
Last season, Fournette did not return to action until Weeks 15-17 after Jones suffered a broken finger that required surgery and was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
That action continued when Jones suffered a quad injury just before the Washington game, allowing Fournette to earn the name Lenny in the playoffs, then Lombardi Lenny. Fournette started all four games in the postseason and now has a chance to start this season.
These guys. You all know the system. The best players will play, Arian said. We obviously had two really good players at that position, and I really like Ke’Shaun Vaughn. I think he’ll get a break in the offseason too. All of these roles will be determined in the final week of the preseason.
Jones rushed for 978 yards on 192 carries (5.09 average) and seven touchdowns in the regular season, along with 28 receptions and 165 receiving yards. Fournette accounted for 367 yards on 97 carries (3.78 average) and six touchdowns in the regular season, along with 36 receptions and 233 receiving yards.
But in the postseason, Fournette had 82 touches for 448 yards and four touchdowns in four games. Jones, who took over the divisional game in New Orleans, had 139 yards or scrimmage and 35 touchdowns in three postseason games without a touchdown. Fournette averaged 4.69 yards per rush in the postseason, while Jones averaged 3.97 yards.
Asked about receiver Antonio Brown, the only major free agent yet to be contracted, and how quickly he hopes that position is resolved, either by contracting Brown or adding an outside free agent, Arians said: We]re just taking our time. There are proposals, and we’ll see how it goes.
Arians said that, like last year, the team will consider selecting a quarterback to develop behind Tom Brady, even in the first round at No. 32.
We face this problem every year. If at the right time there is a guy that we think has a great future, and there is no better time than to sit back and learn from those two guys for a few years – every round one of those guys will come into the picture to see who is the best available at that time.
Arians also gave an update on O.J. Howard, who tore his Achilles tendon in Week 4 as he began to get comfortable with Brady.
Yes, he is very close, Ariadne said. He’s not running in the grass yet, but he’s very close. Last time I checked, he was running at 80, 85% bodyweight on Ultra G, and he looks great. I don’t see a problem. If and when we get this off-season program on the field, it will be ready. It’s good that he’s coming back, because he had a great year. … The sky’s the limit for what he can do in this attack.
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