The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have high expectations coming into the 2020 season. With a new quarterback under center, the running game for the Bucs will be crucial to provide support and help balance the offense. Tom Brady comes to Tampa and immediately has the best receiving group he has ever had in his career. That being said, the run game has been crucial to Brady in his most successful years. Four out of Brady’s six Super Bowl wins have featured a running back rushing over 1,000 yards in the regular season. Heading into 2020, the importance of the run game can’t be stressed enough. But which of the Buccaneers running backs will carry the load in 2020?
Ronald Jones is the front runner
The young running back from USC didn’t exactly have a stellar first year, but he showed marked improvement in year two. Expectations heading into year three are high. Bruce Arians gave us some insight into his plans for Jones.
“Rojo is the main guy, and he’ll carry the load. Those other guys are fighting for roles, who goes in second when he gets tired, maybe third down..”
Of course, a change of plans just before the season starts wouldn’t be shocking. It wouldn’t be the first time Arians made sudden adjustments, but for now, we have an idea who the bellcow back will be for the Buccaneers.
Will it be LeSean McCoy or Ke’Shawn Vaughn?
The battle for the third-down or receiving back will be between these two new Buccaneer players. LeSean McCoy comes with a wealth of NFL experience, including multiple campaigns with 1,000-yards rushing and 40 or more receptions.
McCoy has extended his career in the NFL longer than most because of his ability to be more than just a running back. He can block, catch screens, and run the ball between the tackles. With that being said, McCoy is getting older and has had some trouble holding on to the ball in the past, including three fumbles last year.
With this being Vaughn’s first year, he is an unknown in some senses. His rookie offseason didn’t exactly start off with a bang after being placed on the COVID Reserve list on July 28th. At Vanderbilt, Vaughn had over 1,000 yards rushing and 270 yards receiving with 10 total touchdowns in his senior season.
Vaughn has definite potential, but will he be effective as a pass blocker? Will he be able to handle some passes thrown his way? There are a few more questions than answers at this point, but I like Vaughn’s chances to see significant playing time in 2020.
The best of the rest
The first three names on this list are most likely shoe-ins to make the roster. That being said, Arians will probably carry four running backs into the 2020 season (as he did in 2019). Who will be the fourth guy? If 2019 is any indication, the fourth running back listed on the depth chart was listed as the primary kick returner as well. They will probably have to contribute to special teams in some way to guarantee himself a spot on the team.
The front runner for the fourth spot solely because of his role on the team in 2019, Ogunbowale did see some game time last year. Most of his production was as a pass-catcher where he tallied 35 receptions for 286 yards, but he wasn’t asked to do as much in the run game. Last season, there wasn’t as much competition for a roster spot as there will be this year. Can Ogunbowale show his value in other phases of the game?
Logan is another interesting name because of his experience with Arians in 2017 and again in 2019. His primary role has been as a returner, but he has experience running the ball (especially out of the shotgun) and in the passing game from his college years at North Carolina.
The dark horse for the fourth RB spot was selected in the seventh round from the University of Lousiana. A former track star in high school, Calais boasts incredible speed and the ability to be a factor in the return game, earning first-team all Sun Belt conference as a returner.
I’ll go with Calais as a surprise pick for the fourth spot. Why? Both Ogunbowale and Logan are known commodities. Whoever gets the fourth RB spot will most likely not see time as a RB. As we know, Arians wants to use that fourth spot as a possible kick returner, in my opinion, that leaves either Calais or Logan. Ball security will definitely play a crucial role, but with no preseason, there isn’t much to go off of. It could be either, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Calais lockdown that fourth spot.