After one preseason game, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter made it clear that he expects veteran running back Peyton Barber to work ahead of rookie Ronald Jones.
“Peyton is our starter,” Koetter told reporters Monday. “We’re definitely going to use Ronald Jones and take advantage of what he’s going to do.
“We do have the two veteran backs behind him. Again, we’ve got three more preseason games. Let’s just let it sort out a little more.”
Barber played 14 snaps against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, touching the ball six times (four carries, 21 yards, TD; two catches, minus-1 yard) before sitting out the rest of the night with the starters. Jones, whom the Bucs took 38th overall out of USC in April’s draft, had eight carries for 9 yards and a touchdown on 17 snaps. Koetter described Jones’ performance afterward as “average.”
Barber, 24, totaled 423 rushing yards on 108 carries (3.9 per carry) with three touchdowns in 16 games (four starts) last season, along with 16 catches for 114 yards. Koetter expressed confidence Monday in Barber’s ability to fill any role required of him, although he doesn’t envision a high-volume role for the third-year pro.
“Peyton could be a three-down player if we asked him to,” Koetter said. “You know the reason you don’t see a whole lot of three down backs in the NFL is because it’s hard on them. They get tired and they take a pounding.
“... I do not think we’ll be going with a three-down back just because I think it’s very hard to do.”
Jones, who turned 21 on Aug. 3, averaged 6.1 yards per carry in three years with the Trojans and scored 19 touchdowns last season. Known for his speed, he regularly ripped off long runs, including an 86-yarder in 2017.
The Bucs also have veterans Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims and a pair of undrafted free agents in rookie Shaun Wilson and second-year man Dare Ogunbowale. The latter earned praise from Koetter on Monday for his quick progress.
Sims re-signed with the Bucs on a one-year deal as a free agent this offseason, but his roster spot is not yet considered safe.
—Field Level Media