As nice as it would be to see Buccaneers wide receiver Jaelon Darden break out during 2022, this is going to be hard to accomplish.
It is happening again. The Jaelon Darden hype with the Buccaneers built to a remarkable level last season before crashing down in a disappointing rookie season.
The rookie receiver was touted as one of the better picks in the draft after the Bucs traded up to secure him. Training camp went great, but that was the last we saw of the “dominant” Darden.
Tampa didn’t have that many changes coming to their wide receiver room. Darden was a lock to make the roster either way, but a great practice player looked like a no-brainer to make the team.
Despite his great success in the summer and the early fall, Darden did very little for the Buccaneers when the rubber met the road. Six receptions for 43 yards during the regular season is not what we saw in camp or what impressed the front office and beat writers alike.
The skills in the return game were arguably worse, and that was an even greater surprise considering the lack of consistency in that area.
Jaelon Darden had a rookie year to forget. That’s fine when looking at the offense he was on. It is far too soon to start throwing around the word “bust,” but it is also far to say that we are going to actually need to see this player that the coaching staff is praising again in a real game before the hype builds for the second time.
That train left the station going 200 miles an hour last year before blowing up on the tracks without leaving the station. Letting the same thing happen again due to unfair expectations would be a mistake.
None of this is to say that Darden didn’t improve, in fact, he should’ve, but hearing all of this praise in camp again feels eerily similar to what we experienced last season.
Bucs fans need to be wary. Darden is young and buried on a very deep wide receiver depth chart. It would be great for him to meet these lofty expectations en route to a Super Bowl in 2023, but it is going to be difficult to see all of this happen with so few reps.
Want to write about the Buccaneers? Apply below!
Want your voice heard? Join the The Pewter Plank team!