This article is part of our Training Camp Notes series.
-Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians made some waves Wednesday when he implied that Ronald Jones would lead the Buccaneers backfield in 2020, referring to the third-year former USC star as "the main guy," a running back who will "carry the load."
It's anyone's guess how earnestly Arians spoke those words, and even if he meant them it's fair to wonder whether his expectations are on the mark. Of course, if Arians means what he says then it bodes very well for Jones as he heads into his third NFL season out of USC. Still just 23 years old – about three months younger than rookie third-round pick Ke'Shawn Vaughn – if Jones has a lead now then it might be one he never relinquishes in Tampa Bay. Vaughn and seventh-round pick fellow rookie Raymond Calais remain on the COVID reserve list, meanwhile, and Arians otherwise said LeSean McCoy would have a role on offense, perhaps especially in passing situations.
-Miami slot receiver Albert Wilson opted out of the 2020 season Wednesday, one day after teammate and fellow slot-centric wideout Allen Hurns chose to sit out the upcoming year. This news arrives at the same time that second-year outside receiver Preston Williams (knee) had his Week 1 status put under some question despite his meantime clearance for general football activities. After suffering a torn ACL in Week 9 of last year, Williams at once has a chance to play in Week 1 but also lacks any guarantees in the short term. If Williams misses any game time or gets brought along slowly, it puts that much more pressure on DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki to carry the Miami passing game.
As far as the Miami slot position goes specifically, the remaining top candidates are likely Isaiah Ford and Jakeem Grant. Grant is uniquely explosive in the open field but has probable workload limitations at around just 5-6, 165 pounds. If Grant can't pick up the combined slack left by Hurns and Wilson, then Ford almost necessarily seems like the replacement. Ford was a highly productive player at a young age at Virginia Tech, but below-average athleticism has held him back to this point. He broke out in the final four games of 2019, though, showing his lack of athleticism can be overcome by running from the slot. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 60.2 percent of his passes at 7.4 yards per attempt in those four games, yet in the same sample Ford caught 21 of 29 targets for 235 yards (72.4 percent catch rate, 8.1 YPT). He drew those 29 targets on just 177 snaps, a high rate that bodes well for Ford going forward. Still just 24 in his fourth NFL season, Ford might have defeated Hurns and Wilson for the starting slot role even if they hadn't opted out.
-Matthew Stafford was cleared from the COVID list Tuesday, and WR1 Kenny Golladay joined him in COVID clearance Wednesday. With Stafford and Golladay both off the list, the Detroit passing game is set to put some reps on the practice field. Tight end T.J. Hockenson remains on the COVID reserve list, however.
-The Cardinals signed wideout Andre Patton, recently released from the Chargers. Patton might seem like a sleeper candidate following his 513 snaps last year, especially given the struggles of Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson, but Patton is no guarantee to make the team and likely won't draw targets even if he does. He drew just 17 targets on those 513 snaps last year, an improbably low target rate. There's reason to think Patton can't really get open in the NFL. Rather than pushing for meaningful snaps in Arizona, Patton is probably just battling for a roster spot against the likes of Trent Sherfield and Johnnie Dixon, perhaps as the underdog of the group.