The Buccaneers need more from Jaelon Darden when he returns from injury.
Jaelon Darden was one of the biggest draft picks by the Buccaneers in the 2021 NFL Draft. In the days following his selection and through training camp, Darden’s selection garnered praise from the national media on a daily basis, and the hopes were high for the rookie receiver to make an immediate impact on a talented Buccaneers team this season.
Despite the high expectations, Darden has failed to impress so far this season, even with the added touches for a player of his caliber.
A rookie receiver was never supposed to see the field much for this roster. Between the great pass catchers in the wide receiver and tight end rooms, Darden was a long shot to see the field even with his incredible talent and college career taken into account.
The Bucs have three All-Pro receivers and two that already don’t see the field enough, so it makes sense that Darden started the season as the odd man looking in with the entire unit returning from last year.
After an injury to Antonio Brown and the departure of Jaydon Mickens, Darden started to see the field as the main return man on punts and kick returns and also got to play a few offensive reps as well.
Darden started out well with a few great punt returns to excite the fanbase, but his kick returns have been lackluster in recent weeks and his offensive performances have been a far cry from what we saw during training camp.
The good news for Darden is that he still has time. An injury may offset his progress right now, but he still has all of the tools to be a legitimate contributor down the road, so there is no need for concern as of now. The production just ins’t where it was expected to be at this point in the season, but Darden wouldn’t be the first, and he certainly isn’t the last. His time will come.
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