Bruce Arians Praises Jaelon Darden

December 22nd, 2021

Rough numbers. Loving coach.

Twice during Sunday night’s embarrassment against the slimy Saints, Joe twice watched rookie returner Jaelon Darden and got a Dexter Jackson vibe.

For new Bucs fans or those only familiar with The Lost Decade and the present, allow Joe to explain.

The bad Dexter Jackson (not the Bucs’ first Super Bowl MVP) was a bust of a second-round pick returner/receiver out of Appalachian State in 2008. What made Jackson so unique was that he had a prominent teammate comment on his too-frequent slipping and avoidance of contact.

Veteran Bucs blocking icon receiver Michael Clayton famously told The Tampa Tribune that Jackson was playing scared and needed to figure out how to run hard after catching a punt or a kickoff. It was telling.

Fast-forward to Sunday, and Darden was a very busy man with seven punt returns. Joe thought Darden again looked tentative on some runs and there were the couple of slips on dry turf. He averaged 5.9 yards per return, which isn’t very good. On the season, Darden’s average of 7.7 yards per punt return ranks 21st in the NFL among those with 10 or more attempts.

On kick returns, more teams are kicking short to Darden intentionally. He ranks 32nd in the NFL among those with 10 or more kick returns (18.9 yards per attempt). The guy the Bucs booted in favor of Darden, Super Bowl returner Jaydon Mickens, ranks 19th in the league — with Jacksonville. He’s also averaging more than 10 yards per punt return.

Yesterday on the Buccaneers Radio Network, Bucco Bruce Arians was all positive about his rookie’s work against New Orleans.

“I thought he did a real good job judging inside-the-50 balls and played one off the bounce and got a nine-yard return, which was big because they probably would have got it on about the 2. I thought he made good decisions,” Arians said.

Joe gets being patient with a rookie and supportive, especially a guy out of the University of North Texas. But Joe just isn’t seeing it yet from Darden and wishes Mickens was still around.

38 Responses to “Bruce Arians Praises Jaelon Darden”

  1. Medicated Pete Says:

    Darden cost us a game vs Washington BRUCE! Send him home for Christmas

  2. Jordan Says:

    Agree with Arians here.

    9 yards doesn’t sound like much until you consider that it’s basically a first down that the offense doesn’t have to get.

    Mickens had basically zero potential to take one to the house for a TD, whereas Darden almost did it on his first punt return ever vs the Bears.

  3. crazyBucs_CL Says:

    @”..But Joe just isn’t seeing it yet from Darden and wishes Mickens was still around…”
    Absolutely right. We dealing with stubborn old man, that refuse to admit mistakes. Very costly to the team.

  4. SOEbuc Says:

    Wrong. Guy is a master of falling over on returns.

  5. Listnfrmafar Says:

    WHAT??? He had some holes Vea could of run through and got more yards. Great he did not drop any but it is clear to me know a player can’t run with a load of shat in his girdle. He is afraid and it shows.

  6. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Now, damn autofill

  7. Mike Johnson Says:

    And now we learn Lavonte David will miss 2 games with a foot sprain. Them Big Hits just keep on ah comin folks. Next man up.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Have seen too many times when opponents kicked it to Darden right at the goal line & he couldn’t even make it out to the 20. Throw in the potential of a penalty against our S/Ts (block in the back or whatever) and that has the potential for catastrophe (starting inside our own 10 instead of at the 25).

    Never been a big fan of keeping someone on the team JUST for punt returns or kickoff duty. Darden as a receiver really hasn’t shown me anything yet. Been targeted 11 times but only caught 6 of those (54%) even though they’ve basically been very short (3.9 yds/target average). With only 43 yds total, that means he’s only gotten 20 yds YAC. He was touted as being very quick & elusive, but have yet to see that from him in the NFL.

  9. Rayjay1122 Says:

    Praised for sucking? The only time one should be praised for sucking is if the individual is a fluffer.

  10. Casual Observer Says:

    Agree with DRules. Plus I always worry that he will fumble. He hasn’t yet – so probably unwarranted. Agree that he shouldn’t usually run out a kick taken at the goal line. He rarely gets to the 25.

  11. PanhandleBuc Says:

    Darden is terrible! I just don’t know what they see in him other speed. D Jax (not the SB MVP) all over again! Bust!

  12. FrankPillow Says:

    The kid looks very Dexter Jackson like out there (not the SB MVP).

  13. Jmarkbuc Says:

    Another poster very aptly named him

    “ Stumbles Darden”

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I thought he was supposed to be fairly fast, but really sudden.

    I ain’t seen diddly from the guy yet in any part of his game.

  15. PassingThru Says:

    Darden tripped over some ants.

  16. adam from ny Says:

    he stumbles and bumbles in a masterful way…

    i’ve been admiring it since day one…

    next i would like to see him try the michael jackson moonwalk across the bucs logo at the 50 yard line…

  17. adam from ny Says:

    the key to a great stumbler is…

    he must bumble too…


  18. Izod Says:

    Darden is exactly the kind of return man you want, if you’re playing high school teams.

  19. Bucamania Says:

    Dexter Darden runs scared looking for a place to get down. He got tackled by a finger on one return. Move on.

  20. SickofLosing Says:

    He’s absolutely running scared and desperately trying to avoid contact. 100% reminds me of the bad dexter

  21. Paul alsobrook Says:

    He’s absolutely running scared and desperately trying to avoid contact. 100% reminds me of the bad dexter

  22. SickofLosing Says:

    What game was Bruce watching lol. They really missed on Darden
    I’m trying to be patient cause he’s just a rookie, but it’s hard with how he runs scared

  23. SickofLosing Says:

    You have to be fearless as a return man and Darden ain’t that. I don’t see him growing a sac, you either have it or you don’t

  24. Will Says:

    I just want him to fair catch every punt. He’s a turnover waiting to happen and it’ll probably be in the playoffs and will cost us the game. HOPE I’M WRONG but that’s the vibe I’m getting with him.

  25. Craig Says:

    If Darden knew where he was going before the ball got to him, he might be okay.

    I noticed that he hangs out, like he was waiting for a bus, for way too long before trying to get around the guys that are now too close.

  26. JB Says:

    Darden falls down making cuts 100% of the time. Literally have never gotten to see how fast he is, he’s always on the ground. He may be “speedy” but he seems to be below average in most other respects, and WR and PR/KR aren’t things you really grow into much – you either have it or you don’t. WR maybe you can grow a little, but I don’t think this kid is the solution as a #2 or #3.

  27. Show Me the TDs Says:

    I see a few posters who constantly rip our SB winning coach. I would normally defend BA, but dang man, “Are you blind?!?!?” Darden is gutless and a waste of a roster spot!

  28. Austin Says:

    Not we need him to start catching passes and make some sick RAC

  29. dmatt Says:

    He has to be scared, he stumbles on just about every punt or kick off return. We need fearless players. We have several players who r passive n play timid n scared. OJ Howard, JDarden, JDean,ROJO,SMiller.

  30. captivajim Says:

    someone a few days ago said it best : “Darden trips over ants”

    BA is afraid to admit mistake of keeping him

  31. Ed Says:

    Remember when the Bucs used LaGarrette Blount as a kickoff returner?

    He was way better than Darden. We really need a decent punt returner. I believe Scotty Miller is the next man up for that job.

  32. NPRbuc Says:

    BA needs to get after the grounds crew asap. If he watched the game he would have clearly seen Darden tripping over the hash marks. Anyone could see that the problem was the grounds crew putting down too much chalk on the lines. When you are dragging your toes while running that extra height on the hashes is deadly. One coat of chalk and Darden becomes a missile!

  33. Brandon Says:

    He was drafted for his speed and he has yet to show it. Way too small to not be that fast. Wasted pick.

  34. tampabayallday Says:

    He deserves to be on the practice squad

  35. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We have the worst return blocking in the NFL…….and the coverage is also poor…

  36. Joe in Michigan Says:

    I’ll be counting how many times “Stumbles” falls down on his own during returns. We need a new NFL stat for guys like number 1 who get tripped up by the “Turf Tackler”, or stumble over chalk lines.

    Please “Stumbles”, no fumbles!

  37. Trevor Says:

    I see the the same issues Darden’s having as everyone else mentioned but so maybe he is nervous etc. Not all rookies come into the league 100% ready. Especially out of North Texas. Has BA and Licht still not earned the benefit of the doubt for drafting and developing players? I’m hearing some of the same things people said about Rojo, some of our DB’s, hell Matt Gay is one of the best kickers in the league this year. Plus most of us were complaining just as much about Darden last year. Have some patience, the kid has shown some flashes of potential.

  38. donuts Says:

    This issue has 2 components:

    1. Darden is average at best and easily tackled/tripped by his own cleats

    2. The ST unit protection/blocking schemes has been awful; worst in the NFL. I think the ST players are poorly coached.