Bucs RB Jones to start despite Week 1 benching

NFL

TAMPA, Fla. — Despite being benched after his second-quarter fumble against the Dallas Cowboys last Thursday night, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II will start this week against the Atlanta Falcons, coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday.

Arians also provided additional information on starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who was placed on injured reserve after he dislocated his right elbow Thursday night while attempting to make a tackle. Arians said, “Right now, it could be anywhere from four [weeks] until the end of the season. We’re still looking at some MRI stuff and a second opinion on what has to be done if anything.”

As far as Jones, Arians said Tuesday, “Rojo was ready. We started throwing the ball a bunch more. But he’s starting this week. He’s ready to roll.”

It was a different tune from what Arians said Friday though, that Jones struggled to regroup mentally after his mistake, which is why Leonard Fournette got most of the work while Giovani Bernard came in on third down and in their hurry-up offense. Fournette also got the first handoff of the game.

“Ro was running really, really well until the fumble, and then he struggled mentally to get over it,” Arians said Friday. “That was too big of a game and go out there and not be focused, so Lenny got the rest of the way.”

Jones’ fumble came with 6:36 to go in the second quarter, on a 1-yard run, where he was hit by DeMarcus Lawrence, who knocked the ball loose, with Randy Gregory making the recovery at the Tampa Bay 27. Jones did not see another snap the rest of the game.

Jones finished with 14 rushing yards on four carries while Fournette had 32 rushing yards on nine carries. Fournette also had five catches on seven targets for 27 receiving yards while Bernard had two catches on three targets for 12 receiving yards, both coming in the fourth quarter.

Jones has struggled in the past regrouping from his mistakes, and Arians has taken different approaches to helping him. He was pulled in 2019 for missing a blitz pickup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But then at the New York Giants in Week 8 last year, Jones had a first-quarter fumble that was recovered at the Tampa Bay 12-yard line. He returned in the third quarter, although Arians said Jones “went in the tank.”

Then at the Carolina Panthers in Week 10 last year, Jones had an opening-drive fumble at the Tampa Bay 26, but Arians kept him in the game, and Jones wound up with a 98-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Responding to a post on his Facebook page Saturday, Jones said, “I’m always ready to go when my number is called!”

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