Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Two rookies already turning heads entering OTA’s

Jaelon Darden, Cameron Kinley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Jaelon Darden, Cameron Kinley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports /

With OTA’s set to kick off today for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two rookies have already started to shine and make themselves noticed amongst the coaching staff during the two-day rookie mini-camp. Entering OTA’s, they are two potential diamonds in the rough that are worth watching and monitoring.

The Buccaneers traded up in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft in order to select North Texas Mean Green wide receiver Jaelon Darden. It’s obviously very early, but entering OTA’s, Bruce Arians and company seem to be enjoying some return on the investment.

Listed at 5-feet 9-inches and 174 pounds, Darden is small by NFL standards. However, he’s often used his quickness to make up for his lack of thickness on the field, as evidenced by his performance during rookie mini-camp. Arians had Darden taking his reps lined up on the outside, despite many assuming he’d be in the slot, saying that Darden is “a little thicker than I thought he was going to be” when it comes to his muscle. Arians went on to say that Darden reminds him of Scotty Miller, which would explain the reps on the outside.

That’s not where the comparisons end, however.

Arians was the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they drafted wide receivers like Santonio Holmes, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, and current-Buc Antonio Brown. Arians sees them all in Darden based on how fast he plays by catching the ball away from his body, but primarily Sanders and a little AB. That is pretty high praise and something to be excited about.

More on Darden. light. Related Story

On the other side of the ball, we turn to the land of the undrafted. Cornerback Cameron Kinley from Navy was the talk of the second day of rookie mini-camp. On day one he got a pick-six off of Kyle Trask, but on day two the 6-feet 2-inch, 204 pound Kinley was mirroring the athletic Kinley with great aplomb. They had some battles, and you can get a glimpse here:

Kinley was not only the team captain at Navy, but he was also the class president. The general notion that when players get drafted they are still often seen as “kids” despite their superhuman size, strength, and athleticism. In the NFL, they force everybody to be a man, no matter how long it takes. If it takes too long, you aren’t lasting too long, simple as that. Make no joke about it though, those who graduate from the military academies are already men. They may not produce a huge quantity of NFL talent, but they do produce a huge quality of mature prospects.

Both will be competing for depth spots on the roster more often than not and will have to make a name for themselves on special teams, which both seem up to the task of doing. Darden can help in the return game most notably. Both are entering deep rooms in their respective positions, but with time, the Buccaneers may find themselves with a couple of diamonds in the rough.

We obviously have a long way to go with OTA’s just now set to kick-off, but for now, here are two rookies not named Trask or Joe Tryon that have already turned heads, and should be on fans’ radars.

Next. Not to brag but we did call this with Kinley. dark