Leonard Fournette playoffs create Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB competition

TAMPA, Fla. -- When Leonard Fournette signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 last season, coach Bruce Arians said that Ronald Jones was still his starter at running back.

He reiterated that throughout the season. But after Fournette, who re-signed four days ago, had 448 scrimmage yards in four postseason games on the way to a Super Bowl title, Arians is leaving the door open on who will start in 2021.

"No. That will all be defined through practice and OTAs and training camp and preseason," Arians said Tuesday.

"There are no starters. This is a new football team. I made that message clear when they left, that that team won the Super Bowl. This team hasn't done s---. All those things will be defined in practice."

Last season, Fournette didn't see starting action until Weeks 15-17 after Jones suffered a broken finger that required surgery and was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

That action continued when Jones suffered a quad injury just prior to the wild-card game at Washington, allowing Fournette to earn the moniker "Playoff Lenny," and later "Lombardi Lenny." Fournette started all four postseason games, and now he has a chance to start this season.

"Those guys. They all know what the system is. The best players are gonna play," Arians said. "Obviously we had two really, really good ones at that position, and I really like Ke'Shawn Vaughn. I think with an offseason, he's gonna have a breakout year also. All those roles will be defined when we get to the last week of the preseason."

Jones rushed for 978 yards on 192 carries (5.09 average) and seven rushing touchdowns during the regular season, with 28 receptions and 165 receiving yards. Fournette had 367 yards on 97 carries (3.78 average) and six rushing touchdowns during the regular season, with 36 receptions and 233 receiving yards.

But in the postseason, Fournette had 82 touches in four games for 448 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns. Jones, who was back to playing in the divisional game at New Orleans, had 139 scrimmage yards on 35 touches in three postseason games, with no touchdowns. Fournette averaged 4.69 yards per rush in the postseason while Jones averaged 3.97.

When asked about wide receiver Antonio Brown, their only key free agent who has not been re-signed, and how quickly he hopes to have that position resolved, either by re-signing Brown or adding an outside free agent, Arians said, "[We're] just gonna take our time. There's offers out there, and we'll see how it goes."

Arians said that, just like last year, the team would consider drafting a quarterback to develop behind Tom Brady, even at No. 32 in the first round.

"We go into that every year. If the guy is there at the right time that we really think has a great future, and no better time than to have one sit for a couple years and learn from those two guys -- each round, there's gonna be one of those guys in that picture to try to see who's the best available right then."

Arians also provided an update on tight end O.J. Howard, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in Week 4, just as he was getting into a groove with Brady.

"Yeah, he's real close," Arians said. "He's not running on the grass yet, but he's really close. The last time I checked, he was 80, 85% bodyweight running on Ultra G, and he looks fantastic. I don't see any setbacks. If and when we can get together this offseason program, on the field, he'll be ready to go. What a huge addition to have him back because he was having a great year. ... The sky's the limit for what he can do in this offense."