Buccaneers: Ke’Shawn Vaughn is pair of hands away from 3-down ability
By Rob Leeds
If Ke’Shawn Vaughn can start contributing consistently in the passing game, the Buccaneers may have themselves a new three-down back.
Somehow, the Buccaneers have a very talented running back room, yet they don’t have a clear-cut three-down back. The committee approach is fine for a unit with Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, Giovanni Bernard, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, but all of these backs could add something to their game to become more complete.
Jones is the best runner but probably the worst receiver. Bernard is the opposite of this. Fournette is great at both things in the post-season, but he struggles during the regular season. These will likely be the three main contributors for the Bucs in 2021, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn is worth an added level of evaluation as well.
Much like Ronald Jones, Vaughn did not play much during his rookie season. Between injuries and some questionable moments, Vaughn’s biggest issue was opportunities, but it is worth noting that he was much better than Jones was in year one.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn can take the next steps with the Buccaneers in 2021
With a measly stat line of 109 yards on the ground and 34 through the air, Vaughn has plenty to prove during training camp and this upcoming season before anything changes with his playing time, but there is a solid foundation for a future three-down back that can succeed on the ground, through the air, and as a blocker.
As far as running the ball is concerned, Vaughn’s best outing came against the Lions. With 15 carries for 62 yards, Vaughn looked confident as a runner even when considering that Detroit had one of the worst defensive units in the NFL last season.
If you go back and watch the tape from that game, Vaughn played like a back with much more NFL experience. Yes, there were some hiccups, but Vaughn was able to wait for blockers and hit the hole hard, which was better than what could be said about Fournette during the regular season.
Blocking and receiving is where Vaughn struggled more, and these were the areas where some fans thought he would be the most productive.
After the draft, the Alvin Kamara comparisons were far too favorable, but Vaughn was still highly productive in college when catching the ball. Vaughn is built to be a great blocker and receiver if his technique is correct, but getting everything together is more complicated than it seems.
The Buccaneers as a whole struggled with catching the ball last season, and Vaughn can set himself apart this year by embracing that role and trying to steal some reps away from Bernard. Vaughn is already a better runner than his veteran counterpart, but he needs to become next to perfect as a receiver if he wants to earn a more significant role.
As it stands, Vaughn is the only back on the roster for the Buccaneers in 2022. This could change depending on many factors, but Vaughn is in a great spot to move into more of a featured role that year if he can beat out any of the other three backs this season.
It may seem like a tall task after a mediocre rookie season, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn is closer than most fans would think to reach the lofty post-draft status that followed the former Vanderbilt man in 2020.
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