The Kansas City Chiefs have made plenty of moves in free agency in 2022, with the majority being sneaky good singings that bring players in who should produce for Kansas City without breaking the bank. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones fits nicely into that category. Jones comes to the 1 Arrowhead Drive on a one-year deal after playing in Tampa the first four seasons of his career.
Jones will most likely be tasked as the primary backup to 2020 first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who looks to bounce back after an injury-riddled season. The Chiefs seemed to lack a certain burst in their run game throughout the year, and Jones can help change that. He runs hard but with patience and vision to see holes and then hit them with intent.
Ronald Jones played his high school ball in Texas, where the importance of prep ball is well-documented. He played collegiately for the USC Trojans, with whom he had a lot of success. He fell 13 yards short of having three straight 1,000-yard campaigns but capped his career off with 1,550 yards on the ground and scoring 19 rushing touchdowns his junior season back in 2017. Over his three years in Southern California, he totaled 3,619 rushing yards, scored 32 rushing touchdowns and averaged 6.1 yards-per-carry. Tampa Bay selected him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The biggest detractor for Jones while going through the draft process was his size and the concern of how durable he would be in the pros. However, he did receive comparisons to Jamaal Charles, who was also considered a smaller back for professional football.
Don’t get me wrong: Jones has not reached the level of a Charles and may never do so, but the four-year back will only turn 25 in August and still has plenty to offer.
How he’s been utilized
Jones’ rookie season was a quiet one, as he totaled only 44 rushing yards and scored one touchdown but began to figure things out a bit more his second season when he eclipsed 700 rushing yards and found the end zone six times on the ground. His career NFL season came in 2020 as he fell just short of rushing for over 1,000 yards, finishing with 978 yards and a career-best seven rushing scores.
Jones primarily served as RB2 for the Bucs behind Leonard Fournette in 2021 and now embarks on his second NFL team in hopes of building on what has been a respectable career thus far. He has carried the ball at least 100 times the previous three seasons, giving him plenty of experience to build off.
Newest Chiefs running back Ronald Jones displaying patience to allow the pulling G to kick out and then hitting the extra gear to accelerate through the hole, finding the end zone pic.twitter.com/BaTrGnjkSL— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) March 26, 2022
Jones scored four times in 2021, and three of them came on runs to the outside. The one here occurred against New England. He can be patient enough to let the pulling offensive guard kick out his target, and Jones accelerates off the backside of his lineman to hit the hole. He can fend off a defender while still angling toward the pylon.
Another outside run from Ronald Jones that ends up with 6, good speed to get around the corner and across the goal line pic.twitter.com/EegS10NbJR— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) March 26, 2022
Here is another example of Jones hitting the speed to round the corner on an outside run that finishes in the end zone. His vision is very complimentary to his game speed, and it allows him to exploit defenders who take bad angles on him. He has a deceptive extra gear that permits him to reach top speed quickly, leaving guys in his wake.
How he fits with the Chiefs
Ronald Jones is an impressive downhill runner with good footwork that allows him to make quick movements in short areas like this one where he is able to bet in behind his pulling LT for optimal yardage pic.twitter.com/dqKNeSbf5n— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) March 26, 2022
Jones is so dangerous on runs to the outside because he can set them up with tough runs between the tackles. Thanks to his eyes and footwork, he can bang it up the middle for gritty yards. He can maneuver around quickly in short areas and contort his way through holes he sees developing before they are actually there.
The Chiefs like to pull with Joe Thuney and Trey Smith, and both are effective in space, so with Jones added into the fold, he will pair nicely with those two and center Creed Humphrey. Jones makes his best money running behind athletic offensive linemen, and he performs best in downhill, point-of-attack runs, which I believe we will see more of from Andy Reid in 2022.
Definitely the best play of Jones’ career, his 98-yard touchdown from Week 10 of the 2020 season, he’s a tough runner there’s no doubt about it pic.twitter.com/zQmLUUrOBP— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) March 26, 2022
Jones’ career play came in Week 10 of 2020 when he ran through a couple of tackles on his way to scoring on a 98-yard run. Big plays like this are far more likely to occur with receivers who are capable of blocking. They can be the difference between a first-down run and a touchdown run.
The Chiefs added wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, who is used to run blocking and when you have guys like Jones who aren’t elite burners but can get into open space with toughness and hard-nosed running, having receivers who can lock up defenders on the outside are valuable.
The bottom line
Edwards-Helaire is expected to be the guy as he enters his third year in the league, but competition brings out the best in true competitors. Jones brings a nice résumé with him to Kansas City, but where he lacks is as a real receiving threat. He struggles to catch the ball cleanly, but he will push Edwards-Helaire for early-down work.
I look forward to seeing how the rest of the running back room gets filled out, but the addition of Jones helps this group in a variety of ways. He has been around highly successful football minds his entire career and now joins a staff with head coach Reid and former running back-turned-offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who will help him find even more success.