Maybe you’re a longstanding Ronald Jones truther. Perhaps you love the fact that Peyton Barber had a top-10 opportunity share among all NFL RBs last season and delivered only 9.4 fantasy points per game. If you are, or even if you’re not1 then it’s hard to get really excited about the Tampa Bay backfield. But that’s why it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Dare Ogunbowale might see significant playing time in 2019.
Pass Catching Pedigree
Jones and Barber are clearly ahead of Ogunbowale, as well as former Bruce Arians favorite Andre Ellington, in terms of handling rushing duties for the Bucs at the time of writing. Barber led the team with 871 rushing yards last season. Jones endured a nightmare rookie season in which he was entrusted with 23 carries. He delivered 44 yards. Regardless of these stats, these players profile as more likely ball carriers than Ogunbowale.
But one area in which Ogunbowale may have an edge over his teammates is as a pass-catcher. Ogunbowale was a productive receiver during his college career, with 60 receptions in 33 career games for Wisconsin.
These numbers, compared to those of Barber and Jones, show a player with a history of use AND production as a receiver. This is not a history that Barber and Jones can boast.
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This lack of production has carried over into their pro careers.
Bruce Arians is an offensive play-caller who loves to put the ball in the air. In his three seasons in charge of the Cardinals, they had a pass to run split of 59:41 or higher three times.
The Buccaneers defense, allied with an expected inability to rack up yards on the ground, should ensure that Jameis Winston will be taking to the air on a regular basis. This is good news for a back who can catch passes. Ogunbowale is that back, and he has already earned favorable mentions from his head coach this offseason.
I have not spoken too much about Ellington. He did have a similar receiving career at college to Ogunbowale and has shown his receiving skills in the NFL (notably with Arians leading his offense). He is not to be dismissed easily.
But he can be dismissed, in my opinion. Let’s not go thinking that Ellington’s presence means Ogunbowale has no shot of seeing the field. As exciting a player as Ellington was during the Arians era in the desert, he never really delivered past his first two seasons in the league. Since 2014, Ellington has not done a whole lot.
An injury has never been far away from Ellington, even during his “heyday”. In his time, he has dealt with a litany of ailments, ranging from knee sprains to quad sprains to turf toe. Betting on Ellington’s health is a surefire way to go broke.
Ogunbowale has been seeing first-team reps in practice in concert with his work in preseason games. After two exhibition games, Ogunbowale has 68 yards on 23 rushing attempts as well as three catches for 54 yards. But he has also impressed Arians with his skills as a pass blocker. If you can contribute as a pass-catcher and blocker, and your competition in the backfield struggles to a) catch a cold or b) make a play, then there is a place for you on a Bruce Arians team.
Image Credit: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Dare Ogunbowale.
- especially if you’re not (back)