Will Bruce Arians Mean What He Said?

August 29th, 2021

Bucs coach Bucco Bruce Arians.

Bucs Super Bowl-winning coach Bucco Bruce Arians is a straight shooter. And since before the draft Arians has been harping about the need for better special teams play.

In fact, Arians said beefing up special teams (and depth) was the focus of the draft.

The past couple of weeks, almost daily, Arians said final roster spots will be determined by guys who can contribute on special teams.

If that is the case, how then can the Bucs cut Jaydon Mickens.

In Jenna Laine’s projected Bucs cutdown to 53 players by Tuesday, the ESPN reporter has rookie fourth-round pick Jaelon Darden edging out Mickens for a roster spot due to his return ability.

So Joe has to ask, what ability?

Darden has shown Joe little to nothing as a return man. The only thing he has demonstrated to Joe is that those big, sweeping, curving cross-field runbacks he tries to use on punt returns don’t often work in the NFL. They may have at North Texas but this is the NFL, not Conference USA.

Is this just part Darden’s learning process as a rookie? Very likely.

Mickens, however, has demonstrated he’s a pretty good kick returner. He averaged 24 yards a return last year (for a Super Bowl champion).

Darden has not come close to that, running back kicks against the likes of Geek Squad technicians, short-order cooks and insurance claims adjusters.

Darden this preseason averaged 12.75 yards a return on punts and 14 yards on kick returns. Mickens had one kickoff return for 33 yards and one punt return for six yards.

Arians said last week of Mickens, “We already know what he can do.” Hence, why Darden got so many more returns than Mickens in preseason.

No, Joe doesn’t expect the Bucs to release Darden. They traded up to get him in the fourth round. They have an investment. But if Arians wasn’t just blowing smoke about bubble players winning jobs by how they perform on special teams, then how can he boot Mickens out the door Tuesday?

Right now there is no question Mickens is the superior kick return man.

42 Responses to “Will Bruce Arians Mean What He Said?”

  1. Irishmist Says:

    Whether they keep Mickens may also depend on how Scotty’s arm is feeling this morning.

  2. Casual Observer Says:

    I also wonder about the quality of the special teams coaching. Not to be overlooked.

  3. Chuckstutz Says:

    Agree the special team coaching needs fine tuning. It ain’t cutting it.

  4. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    You have to ask yourself. “Why is Keyshawn Vaugn getting so many KR opportunities?”
    And……our blocking on kickoffs & punts leaves a lot to be desired….and it’s been that way for a while..

    Our coverage is even worse…..good thing Pinion can punt and kick touchbacks.

    Darden is showing his “rookieness” . If they keep both Darden & Mickens….some other position will suffer….perhaps the 4th TE….I think that would be a mistake.

    Mickens would probably be safe on the practice squad…I think Darden would be picked up.

  5. Cobraboy Says:

    Mickens > Darden.

    I agree: as a return guy, Darden hasn’t shown squat, and the jury is still out as a receiver. He is a developmental guy at best, but he may not get snuck to the PS.

  6. mark2001 Says:

    Mickens is better than Darden right now. Mid season? We will see.

  7. Marine Buc Says:

    I am very disappointed with K. Vaughn’s performance this preseason.

    Scotty Milller is 170 lbs and delicate. I would keep J. Mickens if I were the Bucs…

    I bet they could cut Vaughn and he would clear waivers. There are a ton of RBs who can drop passes, fumble and gain 3 yards per carry.

    I had high hopes for KV but he just is not cutting it…

  8. Bird Says:

    Darden and mickens both make it

    So they only carry 3 tight ends
    Thats how you maneuver there

  9. Defense Rules Says:

    Gut feel is that Darden will end up on the Practice Squad, at least for the time being. Good news is that PS rules are very much different in this COVID year than they were prior to last season. We can find a way to protect him on the PS, at least for awhile.

  10. Will Says:

    I think the problem is the special teams coaching. Keith Armstrong has done nothing since he’s been here imo. We haven’t had a good return or coverage team since he walked in the door. Hell I’ll be honest I can’t remember when the last time we had decent special teams and I’m talking years past as well. This is the only unit that hasn’t made any positive progress since Arians and staff have been here. Don’t forget if it wasn’t for a penalty in the Saints game we would’ve been down big early in the playoffs. Our coverage sucks yet we continue to punt to the returner instead of away from them. Smh

  11. Sport Says:

    So 24yds per return is pretty good….

    Kneeling in the end zone averages 25yds and all but eliminates potential injuries and turnovers..

    Whoooo Caaaasrreess!!!!

  12. TOM Says:

    The biggest problems with ST’s as I see it is the coach Armstrong. Nough said.

  13. AKicknTheBucNuts Says:

    Yes. Mickens is the superior kick return man.

    Yes. Bucs coach Bucco Bruce Arians is the man in the above photo.

  14. AKicknTheBucNuts Says:

    Need a photo of Keith Armstrong with his name under it so we all know what a loser coach looks like.

  15. Chris K Says:

    How long before a post on the Goat being 7th in this years top 100? Curious because everyone else’s was put up by the Joe’s in a short period of us learning. Maybe it’s gonna be a super long post explaining how it’s probably the single greatest FA signing in the history of football! 😂

    I’ll patiently wait….

  16. crazybucs_CL Says:

    ST–> coaching problem. Yes, always they play with new not top of the crop guys, but this ST is being problematic forever.

  17. Cobraboy Says:

    @Wild Bill: Rich Bisaccia was the best ST coach the Bucs ever had and is still brewing ST majik for Las Vegas with Chucky.

    Back then Bucs STs were among the league’s best.

  18. kgh4life Says:

    Darden definitely has more talent than mickens, however, Darden is not dependable. Darden i believe will make the team, but on occasion he will not be activated on game days.

  19. Marine Buc Says:

    @ cobra

    I agree 100%… That was the last time our STs were legit.

  20. Stanglassman Says:

    D.R. – He still have to clear waivers. He’s part of the Bucs 53 or he’s on someone’s else’s team. Darden won’t clear waivers.

    “Any player who has accrued fewer than four seasons of NFL free agency credit is subject to the waiver wire.” Scott Smith article on expanded P.S. during The Sickness times of ‘20- .

  21. Stanglassman Says:

    Rich Bisaccia Should be a ring of honor candidate.

  22. bigdaddio Says:

    Kick returns do not matter. Punt returns do. Darden passes the eye test on punt returns as looking dangerous while nobody else on our squad comes close.

  23. Joe Says:

    Darden definitely has more talent than mickens,

    Can’t go there. Saw every practice and if Darden is a better receiver, it’s not by much.

    As a return guy, if Darden has more talent than Mickens, sure haven’t seen it in preseason games.

    Not anti-Darden at all but remember the Bucs are shooting for a Super Bowl victory of bust. Can you afford to stick with a developmental guy over a proven commodity?

  24. Joe Says:

    Kick returns do not matter.

    Pretty confident both Bucs offense and the coaches consider 10 yards extra per return mattering very much. Not only is that a series of downs closer to scoring, it’s also one less series of downs players get beat up.

  25. Mort Says:

    7 WRs, 3 TEs.

  26. SOEbuc Says:

    -I have NO CLUE what you are talking about as Mickens the superior kick return, Joe. I was like “what?” 24.3 avg 2020. Darden definitely has the speed, cuts, and a lot of room to grow playing only three preseason games. Mickens has looked great in underwear. Whoop-d-do.

    -Darden has been playing backup with a dreadful backup oline and three terrible backup QB. I hated the Trask pick in round two, but he’s slowly coming along as a solid backup with time. Gabbert is GARBAGE. He might beat Jameis for 30 if he played all season, but BA won’t let the history go. But once again that oline is crap.

  27. Gbobucsfan Says:

    Someone will land on the injured list before cuts. Mark it down.

  28. Buckaroo Boozie Says:

    Fair catch punts and take a knee on kickoffs… Offense is Freaking LEATHAL 😳
    Need a Tasker Quality Gunner on special team🤔

    Mickens makes ABnormal look sane🤣

  29. Crickett Baker Says:

    I thought Darden looked scared on his first 2 tries as punt returner.

  30. BucEmUp Says:

    scotty miller

  31. JimmyJack Says:

    Ive liked Darden on punt returns. Hes had two pretty good ones so far for about 15 yards. He certainly looks more explosive then anyone else weve had in years.

    He did muff one punt already so thats concerning.

    Darden looks bad on kick returns though.

  32. Joe Says:

    I have NO CLUE what you are talking about as Mickens the superior kick return, Joe. I was like “what?” 24.3 avg 2020. Darden definitely has the speed, cuts, and a lot of room to grow playing only three preseason games. Mickens has looked great in underwear. Whoop-d-do.

    You need to do some research on what 24 yards average is on kick returns (hint: top-10 in NFL). And Mickens was doing this down the stretch last year and into the postseason, not against next week’s accountants, high school history teachers and bouncers.

    Is it too much to ask for results from Darden? Apparently, it is.

    Last Joe checked, this isn’t the 2018 Bucs where future development and guesswork was sufficient to land a job. Joe thought bringing back 22+1 starters was meant to gun for another Super Bowl winner, not play for 2025.

  33. crazybucs_CL Says:

    Brady 11/14 154 11 1 0 0-0 136.3
    Trask 12/14 146 10.4 1 0 2-15 133.9
    Gabbert 4/10 26 2.6 0 1 1-10 8.3
    Trask numbers this final game….👏

  34. Tackleblockwin Says:

    When it comes to ST, I am more concerned with kick off and punt coverage.

  35. SOEbuc Says:

    What are you blabbering about Joe? Check your stats. His longest return was 37 yards. And he constantly took them in the back of the end zone. 7 rec for 58 yards. Was Darden not hot in OTA or did I miss something? Only difference is he’s only played in three preseason games compared to Mickens who has been in the league three years. I hate the fact we can’t keep em all, but Brady did not trade up in the fourth for them to send him directly to the practice squad.

  36. gotbbucs Says:

    The guy returning the ball is almost the least of my worries. It’s the other 10 guys on the field for those units that appear to be poor at their job.
    Elephant in the room is coaching, but I doubt Arians has the balls to fire Keith Armstrong.

  37. Pickgrin Says:

    Darden has a tone of upside. His college tape is SICK. The talent is there. Hes just a rookie that like 90% of all other rookies needs some development and playing time to get fully adjusted at the pro level.

    A few games under his belt and Darden will be a much better all around weapon for this team than Mickens.

    Frankly, I would rather keep a talented 4th TE (Hudson), or 10th DB (Delaney/Miller/Hagan) who can contribute on ST coverage – instead of give Mickens a spot just so he can be the designated returner.

  38. geno711 Says:

    I am not a PFF stat guy like Joe is. I do not know if 24 yards per kick return is superior. If one guy is at 21 and another guy at 24 – big deal.

    My eye balls tell me that Darden is more explosive as a returner.

    Now if you want to just consider stats, I think Joe Tryon had no tackles and no sacks the 1st game. So, were we hating on him. Because, my eyeballs told me that Tryon is disruptive.

    Then it showed in the last game as Tryon had a sack and a forced fumble.

    This last game, Darden had a 17 yard punt return. Did Mickens have any 17 yard punt returns for us last year? I don’t seem to remember any.

    Darden more explosive IMO and that is good thing in the return game.

  39. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    I’d go with Mickens. However…we could easily keep both.

    Who would be the 4th TE?

    Not for nothing, but OJ could be a surprise cut. He has not paid off at all.

  40. Pewter report Says:

    Chris Godwin was no superstar rookie either it took him a couple years of simply flashing before turning it on. Darden does not have to be the returner or play meaningful snaps right now. He can be eased into it. Their bigger issue is coverage and tackling on special teams

  41. BRYAN KOHN Says:

    Armstrong needs to go!

  42. Wideleftandright Says:

    That’s why there’s a practice squd!