Ronald Jones anchors Bucs running game
Eduardo Encina, Tampa Bay Times, published 9 September 2019

There were few bright spots for the Bucs’ offense in Sunday’s 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but the performance of second-year running back Ronald Jones down the stretch offered a silver lining. After a preseason full of promise, Jones showed important signs that he has taken a step forward from last year’s horrific rookie season. Three quarters into Sunday’s game, Jones already surpassed his entire rushing total from last season.

Jones ran for a career-high 75 yards on 13 carries in Sunday’s game, including 68 yards on nine carries in the second half. Jones became a major part of the Bucs offense after halftime, breaking through the first level of tacklers to average 7.5 yards a carry in the second half. “It’s definitely good to be out there and be the one in games like that,” Jones said. “It’s a good move forward.”

Jones averaged 5.7 yards a carry on the day. Last season, Jones totaled just 44 yards on 23 carries, averaging 1.9 yards per carry. “I thought he had a lot of energy and he was hitting it,” Arians said. “That’s something we can really build off of. I was really happy with the running game.”

The Bucs’ running game ranked 29th in the league last year with a 95.2 yard average. They totaled 121 rushing yards on Sunday.

White plays well in debut
The Bucs placed a lot on rookie inside linebacker Devin White’s plate to enter the season, including leading the defensive huddle and relaying plays from the sideline. But like other starters, he didn’t play much in the preseaosn, so he really didn’t get much of a chance to show how he could adjust to the speed of the pro game.

Add in that White was listed as questionable the day before Sunday’s game affected by a flu bug that was going around the team, and it was unclear what kind of impact White might make in his NFL debut. But White performed well, logging six tackles — this most on the team — and playing a role in forcing a late first-half Deebo Samuel fumble that ended a 49ers drive into Bucs territory.

“I’ve been playing football since I was seven years old,” White said. “So it was just like any other colored jersey. It was different being out there, controlling the huddle, making sure they get the calls, making my checks and stuff. It was very different than college. That’s a man’s sport when you get to the NFL. I can say that because it’s just different. Everybody’s bigger, everybody’s faster, but I belong.”

Challenges work for Bucs
Bucs coach Bruce Arians was just 1-for-4 on challenges involving pass interference calls in the preseason, and entered the season saying he'd probably be a little more deliberate in throwing the red flag understanding that like with all review calls, overturned plays are rare. Arians saw success on his first opportunity in the regular season, getting a no call reversed on the Bucs' second drive of the game. On 2nd-and-9 at the Tampa Bay 19, Winston threw a deep ball down the sideline to Mike Evans.

Despite lots of contact from cornerback Richard Sherman, there was no flag. Arians threw the challenge flag and the call was overturned. In the preseason, 42 of the 48 reviewed calls involving pass interference were upheld, with the initial call on the field standing. By those numbers, just 12.5 percent of reviewed calls in the preseason were reversed.

On the Bucs’ final offensive play, a Hail Mary to Evans in the end zone that drew contact from Sherman and led to no flag. With less than two minutes remaining, the play was reviewed by the officials and upheld. There was definitive contact on the play, but league senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said there was "no clear and obvious visual evidence that either one significantly hinders the other’s opportunity to make a play on the ball.”