Jaelon Darden is officially the next man up for the Buccaneers.
After a stellar preseason with the Buccaneers, it’s surprising that it’s taken Jaelon Darden this long to move into a key role in Tampa. Darden looked like he could play a starting role offensively earlier this year, not that he would, but his chance to contribute is finally here.
Darden wasn’t cracking the active roster in most cases due to the presence of Jaydon Mickens. Mickens didn’t pop as a returner, but he was a consistent presence during the Super Bowl run last season, and he hasn’t looked bad this year.
Either way, the Bucs made the right decision today when they cut Mickens, according to Greg Auman on Twitter. The one thing going for Mickens was his special teams abilities, but when those are mediocre too, the Bucs must’ve decided that the gamble on Darden would help the offense more than it would hurt the special teams.
Either way, a transition at this position during this part of the season does come as a surprise, especially when Mickens was playing better than in previous seasons.
Given the current layout of the team, this is still the right decision. You never want to part ways with a guy who helped in the push for a Super Bowl ring, but Mickens never flashed. To make matters worse, Mickens mainly was a non-factor on offense, which is the complete opposite of Darden.
Darden has only played one game this season, and that game showed a player that should be able to shoulder the special teams jobs well. The offensive stats don’t offer much about what Darden can actually do (one catch for zero yards), but everyone who followed the preseason knows there is more to Darden’s game than that.
In the end, this move shows how little tolerance the Bucs have for mediocrity right now. Every move by this team needs to be completed with a Super Bowl in mind, and Darden at least helps out by giving Tom Brady another weapon on offense.
Mickens will be missed, but his time was up in Tampa. The Bucs will finally start leaning on some of their younger stars, and it is officially Jaelon Darden time in Tampa.
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