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haveyoumetdustin

A Deeper Dive : A Ronald Jones II Report

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After every Bucs draft, I like to take a deeper look at our newest players to get a better idea of who we got. I'm a complete amateur at this, and this is my first time attempting a write up on a prospect, but I wanted to share what I saw with my fellow Bucs fans. Sorry for the low quality images, didn't have time to go through and make gifs/highlight the plays I wanted to. 

I've been a casual fan of Ronald Jones II game at the college level just because of the crazy production he put out vs. NFL talent. Taking a closer look at RoJo through some tape and it's easy to see why he was drafted so high as he truly is a special talent. The Jamaal Charles/LeSean McCoy comparisons are not as lofty as expectations as you would think.

The concerns I read on scouting reports said they worry about his vision as he seems to just run full speed after taking the handoff so I wanted to focus on that throughout the process. I also wanted to start off with a couple of his ‘worst’ games last year from a statistical standpoint. I like doing this with prospects for a couple of reasons - to see if it’s actually a bad performance from them or the sum of other factors around them and to see what else they add to a game besides what you see in the boxscore.


vs Texas 2017 (18 attempts, 47 yards, 2.6 ypc | 1 reception, 56 yards, 1 TD)

  • 2nd play of the game we see RoJo blocking Holton Hill downfield on a WR screen, locks him up and holds the block throughout the play.
  • Next play he's sent out to block again, gets a pop on the LB (Wheeler) on the WR screen and keeps him out of the play
  • Next play on 1st & 10, run to the left as the line does a good job of blocking and RoJo uses his burst to get through the crowd untouched. I feel like the average back would be taken down in the crowd here for a gain of a few yards.. instead RoJo emerges here and is able to pick up the 1st down.
  • On the next run to the right, when RoJo receives the handoff there's penetration from a couple d-lineman already. With the corner crashing in from the opposite side, there's no where to go but dive forward for a short gain.
  • First run of the next series, a CB comes blitzing off the edge unblocked but with RoJo’s burst the CB doesn't even get a hand on him. RoJo cuts into the only lane in the middle, and Malik Jefferson makes a nice read and stops him on the inside run for a 4 yard gain.
  • 2nd & 4 inside the 20 later in the series, RoJo gets the handoff for a run to the left and appears to have a chance to make it around the edge, but the LT is pushed back into his running lane. RoJo redirects inside for a 2 yard gain. H
  • Next play on 3rd & 2, a strong burst on an inside run gets him about 2 yards before the defenders gets an ankle. He's able to twist and pick up a few extra yards to get inside the 5.
  • 1st & Goal, we see a similar situation as earlier with immediate penetration and the inside being stuffed. It appears he might have a lane to the outside, but he keeps the run inside for no gain.
  • 3rd & Goal, he takes an inside handoff down to about the half yard line, tough to see from the angle but appears first contact is made around the 3 yard line and he falls forward to near the goal line.
  • 4th & Goal, another obvious inside run trying to get that last foot for the touchdown. RoJo lowers his head and tries to follow his line in but they don't get any push. At this point, I’m starting to think play-calling is a bit of an issue.. I think there’s got to be a better option than 3 inside hand offs inside the 5 yard line. Again, maybe he could have bounced outside here, but in goal line formation I can see how he would trust his line to get at least half a yard push somewhere.
  • Next drive.. RoJo gets the handoff for another run to the left but the side is sealed up. He cuts back but is slowed down by having to hurdle his own lineman who's on the ground, still saves face with a few yards gained.
  • Next drive.. RoJo gets a hand off to the right, dline gets penetration and he’s met a yard in the backfield, never had a chance. Slips under the first tackle attempt from the DE and falls forward for no gain.
  • Later in the drive - here’s another example of USC’s run blocking just not being very good as when he receives the handoff 5 yards deep all of Texas’ lineman have already beaten their blocks. After his first step this is what he sees, he’s actually able to avoid the first group and cuts to the inside, but gets taken down immediately by the CB crashing down from the opposite side.
  • Next play, RoJo splits out wide and is once again sent to block on a WR screen… he engages the CB (Kris Boyd, who will be drafted next year) and holds the block till the WR gets by. RoJo then finishes the block by throwing Boyd to the ground. Another impressive block by the ’skinny’ RB.
  • On 3rd and 2 on the next play.. if I was to show you this what would your expected outcome be? Three yards behind the line with a DE dropped around him and a DB in front of him just to get back to the line, RoJo is still able to break the tackle from #90 (who is 6’5 280lbs) and bounces off the tackle attempt from the DB to free himself up as he approaches the line of scrimmage. RoJo heads straight for daylight and picks up the first down. Without his block on the previous WR screen and him breaking two tackles behind the line, this drive is over. Instead, it’s 1st down inside the 20. The very next play Darnold takes a shot to the end zone for a touchdown.
  • The next drive - first play RoJo takes a handoff and finds the gap to the right, spinning of the first tackle attempt and picking up about 6 yards.
  • Next play, there's 5 seconds left in the half… it looks like RoJo is going to stay back and block for the hail mary, but releases down the field when there’s no rush. Darnold scrambles and finds RoJo who catches (?!) it around the 35 yard line and immediately turns up field. With five defenders in front of him on the right sideline at about the 20, he takes off in a race to the left pylon that he wins.
  • Next half, he takes the handoff on 2nd & 1 and is met 5 yards in the backfield by Poona Ford. He’s able to shake the ankle tackle attempt, break another tackle attempt by the LB behind the line, and push forward for a gain of about 4 yards and a first down.
  • Next play, he gets the handoff and once again there’s nothing on the inside. It looks like he can gain some yards sprinting to the edge, but instead he’s determined to run inside and meets a LB at the line of scrimmage.
  • Next play, RoJo is once again sent out wide to block on a WR screen. He engages with Boyd again and drives him back a few yards and out of the play enough for the WR to get about a 20 yard gain.
  • Later in the drive, RoJo is left in pass pro on 2nd & 9. Malik Jefferson blows by the RG but RoJo is there to pick up the LB blitz. He gets a good pop on Malik and keeps reroutes him away from Darnold, but the rest of the line collapsed anyways and he’s sacked by a DE.
  • Next drive, Malik Jefferson tries his luck again with a blitz. This time he fakes inside before running clean around the LT who is engaged with the DE, but Malik once again meets RoJo who’s waiting for him. RoJo gives up barely any ground, if any at all, and Darnold is able to take a clean shot down field with his goofy *** wind up.
  • A couple plays later on 3rd & 10, RoJo is sent out to the flats and is open with no one around him for a good 10 yards. Up by 4 points in the 4th, I’d say a good QB would send it out to his RB and give him a chance to make something happen.. instead he forces it down the middle for an interception. This is where I’m starting to think RoJo’s lack of receptions is more to do with the offense/QB than a lack of talent… He does make a nice tackle on the defender who got the interception though.
  • The rest of the remaining ~8 mins or so in the game is more of the same.. a run up the middle for about 4 yards, good pass protection off of a play-action pass, and another sack where the line doesnt even give Darnold a chance.

TLDR summary from the game: Way too may inside runs in my opinion, especially when it was obvious the difference in talent level from USC’s OL and Texas’ run defense (top 5 in the nation). Still, Ronald Jones II created a lot of yards after contact and took what he could get.

I’m not sure if it’s coaching or wanting to run the play as drawn up or what, but it seems like a couple of times this game now that he has left yards on the table by not trusting his speed to get to the edge. Maybe it’s him opting to take the safer route and instead of getting negative yards, at least turn up field and get back to the line? I’m not sure, but I’ll have to trust our coaching staff to sit down with him and look at this, and hopefully they can figure it out.

What I found impressive was that I didn’t see one play in the game where he hurt his team. Sure, maybe there was a couple of times he could have tried to bounce to the outside and pick up more yards, but he didn’t do any dancing in the backfield that lost yardage for them. He was also outstanding blocking, whether it be downfield or in pass pro, and I never saw him miss an assignment or let up any ground. Between his catch and run at the end of the half, and his plays on key TD drives - I feel pretty confident in saying USC doesn’t win this game without him.


vs. Notre Dame (12 attempts, 32 yards, 2.7 ypc)

  • First play of the game, more of the same as the Texas game.. run straight up the middle. He’s able to power through for about 3 yards.
  • Next drive, his second carry of the game is a run to the outside this time, by the time he receives the ball he sees two Notre Dame defenders in front of him.. Te’Von Coney gets a clean shot on him for no gain.
  • 1st & 10 later that drive, it actually took me a minute to find RoJo on the play… I had to rewind a few times because I thought he was the left tackle. Turns out, he came to double team the defensive end with the LT, but after the LT was beat RoJo took on the block vs #93 (6’3 290-lb DE). RoJo didn’t let up any ground and kept the pressure out of Darnold’s face as he took a shot down field.
  • Next drive, RoJo gets the predictable inside dive on 2nd & 1, and falls forward through the crowd for about 4 yards.
  • Next play on 1st & 10.. run to the right, and there's three ND defenders in the backfield as soon as RoJo takes his first step. He tries to change directions but the line is already collapsed and there’s defenders surrounding him before he gets any momentum.
  • Later that drive, 1 & 10 in the redzone.. quick run up the middle for 4 yards
  • Same drive, 1st & Goal, run up the middle is met with a wall with no where to go - no gain
  • Next drive, 2nd & 1.. the play is blown up again by the time RoJo receives the hand off. He’s able to avoid the first defender but there’s two more waiting for him, loss of a couple.
  • Next drive, 1st & 10.. RoJo stays back in pass pro, picks up the LB blitz coming untouched up the middle at full speed. The LB pushes him back a couple yards on the initial pop but Jones II stays on his feet and in front of the defender.
  • First play of the 2nd half, finally gets a small crease up the middle and takes advantage, bursts up the middle for about a 20 yard gain.
  • Next play, the line creates a lane but a LB is blitzing right in the gap they created. RoJo is able to juke the LB, but the RG cant hold his block and the DE takes him down as he falls forward for a few yards on the gain.
  • After a couple more short runs in the 3rd, USC abandons the run for the rest of the game as they are down 4 TDs

As the stats would indicate, not much going on at all from this game. Ronald Jones II still made every block he's was called upon to, but USC's offense line was just too overmatched to get anything going on the ground. The game was essentially over by the half and the running game was aborted early. Overall, the ND line combined for 9.5 TFL with 5 sacks for the game.

It's a bit surprising given in 2016 the results vs Notre Dame were completely the opposite. I wanted to look at the 2016 tape vs Notre Dame, when USC had 3 NFL prospects on the offensive line, to see a comparison of sorts of what RoJo can do with some better blocking.


vs Notre Dame (16 attempts, 134 yards, 8.4 ypc, 1 TD)

  • First run about a minute into the game, we see a much cleaner pocket formed by the line. RoJo shoots through the gap to the right for a gain of 8.
  • Next play on 2nd & 2.. run up the middle, RoJo works his way through traffic for about 4 yards and a first down.
  • A couple plays later, the line again shows how much better it was in 2016, just from the fact they all get an initial block on the defensive lineman. Nothing much up the middle but RoJo picks up 4 yards on first down.
  • Later in the first - RoJo gets the inside handoff once again and there appears to be more room to the left but RoJo stays on course for a run up the middle, slips through some defenders for a gain of 7 yards.
  • Later that series on 2nd &10.. Finally a run towards the outside with a counter. The line does a good job of giving RoJo the edge and he does the rest. He has a clean path for about 5 yards to the 45 yard line until he sees a wall of 3 defenders vs 2 blockers. Rojo bounces to the sideline and past the crowd, and is off to the races for a 51-yard touchdown. It’s not a coincidence that this is one of the first runs i’ve seen on top with good blocking all around from USC, and RoJo is able to navigate through traffic then use his athleticism to easily walk away from the defense.
  • 2nd Quarter, another counter this time to the left. Just as he’s heading to the edge, a defender beats his man and is waiting for RoJo. He’s able to change directions and cut back inside to gain a few yards.
  • Next play, another handoff to the right but there’s a wall - RoJo makes a quick cut inside, bounces off a tackle from the safety as a CB is draped around his ankles, and fights his way for a gain of 8 yards and a first down. Little plays like this that show his relentlessness and toughness are the difference between 3rd & 1 and a new set of downs.
  • Later in the drive, counter to the left and there’s room to run for a second before a lineman breaks off his block and dives at RoJo’s ankles. Rojo is able to avoid the tackle, slip past a couple defenders, and juke the safety out of his shoes for a gain of about 15 yards.
  • Same drive.. RoJo receives the handoff and immediately the DT is in his face 4 yards into the backfield. Never had a chance.
  • Next drive.. handoff to the right, some penetration but RoJo runs right past it, waits for his blockers, and bounces the run to the outside as he sheds a LBs tackle attempt to make it to the sideline. Gain of 15 yards.
  • Next play, again as soon as RoJo receives the handoff there’s a DT in his face 5 yards in the backfield. No chance.
  • Start of the 2nd half, a little pitch to the left that gains 4 yards. I’d like to see him try to use his speed to get to the sideline here but he turns up field and takes the safe route.
  • 4th quarter.. hand off to the left and the line does a good job of blocking, opening a couple of lanes to choose from. RoJo cuts inside to the inside lane for a gain of 10 yards, may have had a chance for more going outside though.
  • Another handoff up the middle as USC is just trying to run the clock down now. The line creates a small lane and RoJo fits through, plants his foot and runs upfield past a couple of defenders at the 2nd level. Safety takes him down after a gain of about 15 yards. Darnold goes on to throw a TD pass to seal the game up with 10 min remaining in the 4th.

What a difference we saw when Ronald Jones II got some running room.. Finally saw his explosion with several big plays. 8 out of his 16 attempts went for 7+ yards, with a few 15+ yard runs including the big 51 yard touchdown. Would have been 10+ ypc if you take away the two runs where a DT met him 5 yards in the backfield when he got the handoff.


Positives (with specifics to the Bucs)

  • Quick, decisive moves. No wasted movements in his running style. When he sees a lane he doesn’t waste any time hitting the hole while it’s open.
  • Strong blocker in pass pro and down the field on screens. USC realized this his junior year and they split him out wide often to block for WRs, with good success. Saw him take on DEs, DTs, LBs, and CBs and never get knocked down. Only person who straight up beat him on film was Nick Bosa, who I think might be good? Won’t have any issues coming in as a rookie and playing on 3rd down.
  • Slippery in between the tackles. Has a knack for getting skinny and fitting through small creases.
  • Not easy to bring down, often bounces off of bigger defenders and accelerates again unfazed. Always seems to finish runs by falling forward for an extra yard or two.
  • Dangerous in open space and it leads to big plays. TDs of 44 & 74 yards in 2015 - 51, 60, & 66 yards in 2016 - 56, 64, 67 & 86 yards in 2017. For reference, the Bucs longest run was 36 yards in 2017 and was 45 yards in 2016. The longest play in 2016 was also 45 yards, but in 2017 the rookies (OJ Howard - 58 yards and Chris Godwin - 70 yards) beat that. In fact, the rooks are the only players with a 50+ yard play over the last two seasons. There’s a theme here with the recent offensive picks, and I like it.

Negatives

  • I think he trusts his blockers more than he trusts his speed, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily when the blockers do their job. Often times though he takes the run inside where it’s intended to go, instead of trying to bounce outside and use his athleticism to get to the edge.
  • He's never going to be a back that has those 'Barry Sanders runs' where he dances around out of trouble and finishes with a TD somehow. Jones II would rather take the positive few yards and move on to the next play than to risk a 'no gain' by doing too much.
  • Seems to have great vision in the open field, but when there's penetration in the backfield before he gets going it seems like he lacks the elite vision/patience trait that guys like Le'Veon Bell or Kareem Hunt have.

Pro Comparison - Clinton Portis

While I do see the similarities to Jamaal Charles, I don’t think he has quite the patience that Charles has shown. Instead, I think he’s similar to Portis, who also came into the league at 5’11, 205-lbs with track speed. Like Portis, Jones II plays bigger than his size and can take a hit. Both RBs excel as one-cut runners who find running lanes quickly and accelerate through them. Clinton was a TD machine throughout his career and Jones II showed the same nose for the end zone in college.


Overall Opinion

Ronald Jones II gives the Bucs offense something they haven’t had in a long time out of the backfield - a TD threat every time he touches the ball. Calling him just a home run threat is cutting him way short though. Jones II is a tough inside runner that will run wild if you open up the smallest lanes for him to fit through. I believe his discipline with sticking to running lanes and not dancing around/improving much comes from his upbringing in a military family, but that's pure speculation and me just trying to connect dots. 

He is a north-south runner by nature, which may surprise some given his size & athleticism. He always opts for lanes & creases inside before trying the longer route of bouncing it to the outside. No dancing in the backfield, as he likes to pick his lane early in the run and attacks. Minimizes negative yardage by this approach and finishes runs strong always falling forward.

Regarding concerns over his size, from what I’ve seen I am confident he is a complete 3-down back that can handle 20+ carries a game. There’s no situation where you don’t want him on the field. Watching film, he looks like he has the strength of a 220-lb back the way he sheds safeties tackles and blocks blitzing LBs.

Concerns on his lack of targets and receiving ability are over blown too. Sometimes college systems just don't target RBs in the passing game. Guys like Jamaal Charles and Melvin Gordon also never cracked 20 receptions in a season in college but have done more than ok in the pros. In Clay Helton's offense since he took over in 2015, the most he’s receptions for any RB is 18 in a season. In the games I saw, I never saw Jones II drop a pass and he seemed natural catching passes in stride when they came his way.

USCs line is simply not very good. Arguably their best offensive lineman last year was just picked up by the Titans as a UDFA. It was obvious when they were severely overmatched, i.e. the OSU game when RoJo was often met at the line of scrimmage or his offensive lineman were being pushed back 3-4 yards deep seconds after the snap.

In 2016 you can see a difference in what he's able to do when he's running behind a line with 3 future NFL players. In 2017, he still shines most games because most colleges teams aren't littered with NFL talent - it's games like vs Texas and Ohio State, who have defenses littered with future NFL players, that he has a tougher time getting anything going on the ground.

He'll feel spoiled running behind our line this year. Our run blocking improved as the year went along as Donovan actually had a couple good games, and I expect it to be strong all year with Marpet back at guard + adding Jensen next to him + Dotson continuing to be one of the leagues best RTs. If that holds true, Jones II is going to be a legit candidate for OROY, and will be one of the most important players on our team as teams will be forced to respect the run.

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1 hour ago, bucsfan333 said:

I really like the Clinton Portis comparison.

Yeah I never thought about it but it's a decent comp.  

I'm just glad that I finally have a trojan to root for now on the team.

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Good analysis, although I disagree w/ your assessment on his vision/patience. He struggles with this at times and leaves a lot of yards on the table by missing the crease when it opens. Sometimes he's too eager to cut it back rather than wait the blocks to open the hole...

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6 hours ago, bucsfan333 said:

Best first post of all time? 

Hah thanks I tried to make it count, to be fair I’m always lurking and been around long before the forum change

3 hours ago, kgarrett12486 said:

Good analysis, although I disagree w/ your assessment on his vision/patience. He struggles with this at times and leaves a lot of yards on the table by missing the crease when it opens. Sometimes he's too eager to cut it back rather than wait the blocks to open the hole...

Agreed, and I was probably too passive in my criticism here, but I did highlight it a couple times here where I thought he didn’t make the best decisions. Part of me wants to say it was because of poor line play and him wanting to get to holes before they closed, but that may be just making excuses for him. Was more of an issue in 2017 then 2016 when he had a better line, watching his 2016 UCLA tape now and the first couple runs I already saw him showing more patience than usual.

I don’t think it’s a killer issue either way if the line plays well, we just can’t expect him to be Bell or Hunt. Guys like Gurley and DeMarco Murray had similar issues coming out and have still found success. 

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Posted (edited)

Speaking of his 2016 UCLA tape, one run just gave a great indicator of his speed. 

On 3rd and 1 from the opponents 41 yard line, Jones II finds the hole to the right and is off to the races. What's cool for Bucs fans is that this run was pretty much a straight dash from the end zone from the 50 yard line with none other than Fabian Moreau (4.35 40-yard at the combine with a 1.51 10-yard split) starting pretty much dead even with him. We didn't get a good 40-yard dash from him after he pulled his hammy so I guess this is as good as its going to get...

The race starts here

After 10 yards, RoJo has a yard on him, probably due to having more initial momentum with the run

After 30 yards, RoJo has barely given up any ground, if any

After 40 yards, Moreau finally decides to make the lounge but he's just not close enough, gets his hands on RoJo but he walks into the end zone

Full run here for reference

I know this is not a perfect way to test timed speed and there's a **** ton of other factors in play here, but its some good reassurance on his athleticism after not getting all the combine numbers

Edited by haveyoumetdustin

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13 hours ago, haveyoumetdustin said:

Agreed, and I was probably too passive in my criticism here, but I did highlight it a couple times here where I thought he didn’t make the best decisions. Part of me wants to say it was because of poor line play and him wanting to get to holes before they closed, but that may be just making excuses for him. Was more of an issue in 2017 then 2016 when he had a better line, watching his 2016 UCLA tape now and the first couple runs I already saw him showing more patience than usual.

I don’t think it’s a killer issue either way if the line plays well, we just can’t expect him to be Bell or Hunt. Guys like Gurley and DeMarco Murray had similar issues coming out and have still found success. 

No doubt, it's definitely a teachable trait and can be learned with experience.

Some guys just have horrible vision and you can't teach that. I don't think that's the case w/ Jones. As you alluded to, he flashes the ability, but just not consistent with it.

I think he has a chance to refine this and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield at the next level and improve both areas drastically. IMO he'll need to do this to ever be that true 3 down back...

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Great post. Clinton Portis is one of my favorite RBs all time and when I watch Jones I don’t see it. Portis was 210-220 range with cat like quickness and can cut on a dime. I honestly see Shady McCoy or Charles type running style but that’s just me. Portis especially with the Redskins was a very physical runner. Jones not afraid to get physical either but CP was a lil more not about shying away from contact. And that most likely took a toll on his body thus shortened his career.

 

Was aware the USC OL is horrendous. I live in LA and I had to watch their games when nothing else was on and mann...Darnold and Jones did the best they could with that front 5 playing as bad as they did. Darnold was running for his life and Jones didn’t get consistent running room. He will be a much better pro than college player same with Sam.

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