The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit at 2-4 midway coming out of their bye week. The bye week is a period NFL teams often use to self-evaluate and make adjustments they normally would not have the time to make in a normal week (especially when you go seven weeks without a home game).
One such adjustment that could provide a boon down the stretch is to start and feature Ronald Jones.
Setting aside Ogunbowale, as his snaps come primarily in a third-down capacity, it’s the focus on the workhorse role where Jones has far outperformed Barber.
First, the basics. Barber has 69 carries for 242 yards and three touchdowns, which is good for 3.5 yards per carry. Jones has 63 carries for 279 yards and two touchdowns at 4.4 yards per carry.
Digging a bit deeper, Jones has a considerable advantage when it comes to broken tackles. He is currently third in the NFL at 7.9 carries per broken tackle where Barber comes in at 17.3, which ranks 30th.
The analytics, too, favor Jones. Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) had Jones at 65 (10th) entering play this past weekend. Barber’s 20 placed him 20th.
This is a volume metric that counts yards gained over what an average running back would have in the same situation and is then adjusted for strength of the defense they were facing.
The per-play metric, Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), too, likes Jones more than Barber. His 16.9 percent mark in DVOA was sixth in the NFL entering the weekend. Barber’s negative 5.3 percent came in 20th. This means Jones has performed 16.9 percent better than average when he’s carried the ball.
Jones’ success rate of 54 percent (8th) is also better than 45 percent (21st) produced by Barber. “Success rate” is a metric based on the down and distance needed for each carry. Jones has been good on a down-by-down basis and is not merely buoyed by a couple of big plays.
Finally, though they both have seen severely limited opportunities in the passing game, Jones holds the advantage there too. He has totaled five catches for 92 yards on six targets (18.4 per reception). Barber has reeled in six of his nine targets for 25 yards on nine targets (4.2 per reception).
The bottom line is, the Buccaneers are leaving yards on the field when Barber touches the ball instead of Ronald Jones. Jones has been both more productive, tougher to bring down, and brings an explosive element that Barber simply doesn’t possess.
Also, having just turned 22, Jones is just scratching the surface of his potential. So far, even at a young age, Jones has shown Pro Bowl potential. He’s a star in the making.
If Arians really wants to kickstart this running game and give the offense the rhythm and balance it has sorely lacked in Tampa’s last two losses, he should start Ronald Jones and never look back.