Ronald Jones proving his worth to surging Buccaneers offense

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) runs for a 98-yard touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Charlotte , N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

TAMPA, Fla. – Ronald Jones may be the least heralded component of the success of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' star-filled offense, but the third-year running back is also emerging as one of the most important.

While Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski garner far more attention as playmakers at Tom Brady’s disposal, Jones is proving his worth as one on the NFL’s leading rushers entering Week 11.

He’s on pace to become Tampa Bay’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2015, and he's playing so well that better-known, more accomplished backups Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy remain role players for the Bucs (7-3), who host the Los Angeles Rams (6-3) on Monday night.

“You talk about their runners, I think Jones and Fournette are as good a tandem as you’re going to find,” Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said. “I think those guys are really an engine for this offense.”

Jones, a second-round draft pick out of USC in 2018, is coming off a career-best 192-yard rushing performance in Tampa Bay’s 46-23 rout of Carolina last week. The highlight was a 98-yard scoring burst that was one of the four longest touchdown runs in NFL history.

Derrick Henry, Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett and Ahman Green are the only other players who have runs of at least 98 yards.

“Once the play snapped, I saw a gap. ... All of a sudden, you’ve got one guy to beat. I knew it was going to be a footrace,” Jones, a track sprinter in high school, said.

“I just had to look up at the Jumbotron to see where the rest of the defense was going to be and change angles,” the 5-foot-10, 210-pound runner added. “It was a track meet like the good old fashioned days.”