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Bucs benched RB Jones for missing blitz pickup

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Monday that running back Ronald Jones II was benched in the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars for missing an assignment on a blitz pickup that resulted in a sack-forced fumble of quarterback Jameis Winston.

Coming out of the backfield with 9:28 to go in the third, Jones moved to his left instead of protecting Winston’s right side. The Jaguars rushed six defenders, including cornerback D.J. Hayden on a delayed blitz from the right side. While left tackle Donovan Smith blocked safety Andrew Wingard, Hayden was unaccounted for, spinning Winston before Wingard brought him down to the ground and knocked the ball loose.

“That was a fumble. We had the game in hand,” Arians said. “It was something that had been switched. We were gonna block something because of their blitzes. [Jones] went to block the guy he used to block. That wasn’t the plan.”

Jones did not see another snap for the remainder of the game, playing only 18 snaps total — third most among the Bucs’ running backs. He rushed for 8 yards on six touches; Peyton Barber, whom Jones beat out for the starting job one month ago, rushed for two touchdowns during a 28-11 victory.

“He works his ass off,” Arians said of Jones. “He’s gonna get better at it. We need him running the football. But you can’t run the football if you can’t protect the quarterback.”

A second-round draft pick in 2018, Jones struggled in his adjustment to the NFL. He was a healthy scratch the first three games of the 2018 season and saw just 23 total rushes. But after a sit-down with the coaching staff this offseason and a better understanding of what it takes to be a pro, Jones has performed well this year, rushing for five touchdowns with 700 yards from scrimmage.

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