Learning Preference Held Back Jaelon Darden

May 14th, 2022

Second-year receiver/returner Jaelon Darden

Last year’s fourth-round pick, wide receiver Jaelon Darden, frustrated many Bucs fans as a rookie.

Among a sea of stud, veteran teammates, Darden looked like a very green rookie not ready for prime time at receiver or as a returner.

No, Joe didn’t expect a fourth-rounder out of the University of North Texas to break out as a rookie star, but Joe was among the fans thinking Darden was overmatched.

Wide receivers coach Kevin Garver spoke recently at One Buc Palace and got candid about what may have held Darden back on offense: a lack of playing time.

Garver explained that some players can thrive watching film and execute what they learn and see while others can see pictures and diagrams and understand a route.

“Some guys need to actually get those physical reps [to succeed], and I think that Jaelon probably fits in more to that category,” Garver said of Darden.

Of course, the Bucs didn’t have a lot of reps for Darden, so that held him back.

Darden’s position coach outlined his great transition from North Texas and said Darden appeared more confident after the midway point last season and that it’s carried over into spring practices this month. Great news!

Training camp and preseason will be huge for Darden, Garver said, “more the telltale sign for him.”

Most good players make a massive leap in their development from Year 1 to Year 2. Joe has no reason not to expect Darden to make that leap. He’s got good coaching and has had a sea of mentors around him, including daily love from Tom Brady.

After a quiet rookie year, Scotty Miller found his way to 33 catches for 501 yards and three touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. Can Darden do the same?

43 Responses to “Learning Preference Held Back Jaelon Darden”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    What will help him the most is learning, either through physical reps or studying pictures and diagrams, how to not fall down and trip over the grass every time he starts running and cutting with the ball. Haven’t seen a dude since the infamous Dexter Jackson (receiver not safety) that seemed like a strong wind and mean look could knock him over.

  2. Greg Says:

    He needs to learn, either through physical reps or by studying pictures and diagrams, how to not fall over and trip on the grass every time he runs or cuts with the ball! I haven’t seen a receiver since the infamous Dexter Jackson that looked like he could get tackled by simply a strong breeze and a mean look.

  3. PSL Bob Says:

    You’ve got to show me to make me a believer. So far he hasn’t shown much.

  4. Chuckstutz Says:

    Well he sure can’t return the ball. I see no hope in him learning routes when he looks to be terrified with the ball. Seems to fall down feign slipping to avoid contact.
    Maybe if he gets more reps he can keep his footing. Ha!
    I will be surprised if he makes the cut.

  5. Goatfarmer Says:

    Darden blows except when he sucks. He will be living in Saskatchewan in a few months if he’s lucky.

  6. steele Says:

    If that’s the problem, he should be demanding more reps and putting in extra time like a maniac. Give them to him.

  7. SB~LV Says:

    I am OK with his rookie year!
    About what I expected and saw flashes of what he can do.

  8. #8 Says:

    Joe tripping over himself to find positives in Darden.


    Ramsey for QB2.

  9. Goatfarmer Says:

    Darden would slip and fall and fumble the water cooler if they made him water boy. He is harder to watch than Dexter Jackson the Awful.

  10. sasquatch Says:

    Look at video from Darden in college. The dude was breaking ankles of defenses trying to keep up with his quickness. If he can harness the physical talent, he can still become the player they hoped they we’re getting.

  11. Joe in Michigan Says:

    The positive is that I don’t remember Darden fumbling.

    The negative is that it **doesn’t seem** like Darden is cut out for NFL football.

    **He could prove us wrong, like Grayson did last year**

  12. Rod Munch Says:

    I think his biggest issue is that he doesn’t really have any outstanding physical traits. He’s not all that fast, or quick, and he’s small. He’s not too slow or anything, just at his size, you’d want him to be faster or quicker.

    At the same time the team did a him a huge misjustice by drafting him to be a returner when he didn’t do that in college, and his combine numbers weren’t anything that would point to him being a successful returner.

    Basically he was a very good college receiver, with ‘just good enough’ physical traits to make a team – but that was about it. It was why, when he was drafted, and people here said he was our new returner – I asked why would people expect him to do that when he barely did it in college and was only mediocre at it. Not sure why people, including the Bucs, thought he’d suddenly be a good NFL returner when there was no evidence of that.

    Unless he takes a big step up, I don’t see him making the team. As for possible returners, again, the guy who I keep an eye on is Texas Tech WR Kaylon Geiger who was an UDFA. Just go watch his highlight reel, he looks like a returner. Still a longshot to make the team, but if I’m the Bucs, I’d want him working returns all summer. If his highlight reel translates to the NFL, you got yourself a weapon.

  13. Stone crab sam Says:

    Darden rides the pines this summer on his way to the unemployment line. Let’s not kid ourselves.

  14. Brandon Says:

    Considering speed is supposed to be Darden’s calling card… he just didn’t look particularly fast. That’s a concern.

  15. Rod Munch Says:

    Brandon – I heard ‘speed’ was his game as well, but he ran a pro-day 4.46, which means he’s fast, but not special fast. Also pro-day 40s almost always are faster than combine 40s, so I think it’s fair to say if he ran in Indy, he’s likely at 4.50.

    Various scouting reports had him more as a 6th or 7th round pick, which I think is more in line with his talent. Obviously one of the scouts loved him, and lobbied for him, and perhaps he still makes the team as a WR. I think, in that roll, of being a legit WR and not a gadget player, that’s his best chance to stick in the NFL. But last year they tried to use him as an AB-type of player, in that role, and he clearly is not that type of WR.

  16. Kgh4life Says:

    The guy just doesn’t have the heart to play in the NFL.

  17. A Bucs Fan Says:

    I thought his short area quickness was what was set him apart, not straight line speed. He didn’t show a lot of that last year and he seemed to be afraid of contact. I hope he makes the jump this year or he’s another Kenny Bell in my book.

  18. Goatfarmer Says:

    Rod Munch has Dardung summarized very well. He’s not really fast, but at least he can’t return kicks, catch, block, tackle, or make a move without falling down on himself. Give his reps to this Sterns kid.

  19. Beejezus-belt Says:

    Well he wasn’t very good as return man. I didn’t expect, or do expect him to be a receiver worth a grain of salt. What the Bucs need him to do is be a good return man. He wasn’t very good at that either, which most guys either can return the ball or they can’t, and there really isn’t a learning curve for that. Especially since that is what he was drafted for.

  20. Bucsfan4ever Says:

    Looks to me he’s pretty quick, but kinda scared of getting splattered. I don’t blame him, but I’m not an NFL player.

  21. Duane Says:

    This kid is in a tough spot because of the other receivers on this team. Likely to be tougher if Scooter returns to form. An offseason and a preseason should give him an opportunity to showcase his abilities.

  22. HC Grover Says:

    His number should be 86.

  23. m0j0 Says:

    I think Darden is going to make believers out of us this year. Young kid from a small school, of course he is going to need time to develop. He’s got talent and will be fun to watch once he gets some reps.

  24. David Says:

    Everyone keeps talking about how he wasn’t that fast. He’s not Scotty Miller fast on straight line speed. Darden is quick in and out of cuts. I hope he’s able to step it up. I’m rooting for him

  25. firethecannons Says:

    I have seen all I can stand to see, we have alot of tough games, there is no time for Darden His time was brief, and it could of been a disaster, any one of those times he lost his footing the ball could of come out. No enough no longer rooting for him, rooting for next guy up who hopefully is Scotty Miller.

  26. Mort Says:

    It is flat out shameful to absolutely BURY a dude from an extremely small school after his rookie year. What did you expect from him, fellas? That’s more a problem with your expectations than with him. He was always going to be a project. You have to give this staff time to develop young talent before you skewer them and run ‘em out of town.

  27. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Mort: We expected him to not fall down without contact, to not run east and west as much as he did, and show some grit. These are all things even a small school rookie should do.

  28. Craig Says:

    He looked dumber than fence post trying to avoid a drunk driver last year.

    He can’t get any worse, so he has to move up; but will he move up enough?

    His return game was like a first time person on ice skates, he didn’t know how to move forward against his fear of where he was.

  29. Goatfarmer Says:

    It’s the NFL. Sorry. Especially in an all-in year, there is no time to waste trying to develop Dardung from being absolutely horrible to merely poor. He had a chance. He didn’t take advantage of it. Like the Joes said, there are supposed to be three football fields and coaches on all of them so the Dardung should have been geting plenty of reps to process the playbook.

    He sucks. He will suck. He will have sucked.

    Bye bye Dardung.

  30. Eckwood Says:

    He was coached terribly and is still wanting to juke every other step and literally can’t run 10 steps with out hesitating ; that’s on the coaches …… unless your Ty hill or Barry Sanders you can’t run sideways and continually stop and start in the NFL …… either you stop doing that or you can’t play on Sun !! Impressive practice cutting and college film is fools gold !!

  31. Alvafan Says:

    Here’s my take right or wrong. Darden flashed skill in college albeit a very small college. He came into camp and made some splash plays. It looked like he would be getting reps as a returner and maybe even crack the receiver room although at that time we were (seemed) loaded and he would have to be a specialist. Then the season starts and he rips off a 40 yard punt return and everything looking up for the kid. Then all of a sudden he gets a head injury and his game drops off completely. What’s even more troubling is his penchant to collapse before contact. Special Team gunners are laughing in his face and all of a sudden fans that a month earlier were cheering him are now calling him a bust. Worse yet the team loses it’s best return man/receiver to the Jags and now there’s a hole at returner and Darden to green to fill in for all the injured receivers late in the season. I hope coach Garver is right and more reps will solve the problem but I think he looks scared out on the field and he needs someone to help him get his confidence back. I for one hope he returns to the exciting prospect he was this time last year

  32. firethecannons Says:

    OMG! we do not have time to hold hands and do joint prayers, get the hell out on the field and stop falling down, stop collapsing on the field without contact, for gods sake practice ball security, high potential for disaster so close to the endzone with all the tripping, falling and close contacts. We need better. Not acceptable–experiment over!

  33. Crickett Baker Says:

    Joe in Michigan could not have explained my thoughts any better. Firethecannons should stop using a preposition with a verb. It is not English to say “could of”. It must have a helping verb like “could have”. (Sorry, but it is a pet peeve of mine. If you are going to write then write right).

  34. Delusional Intelligence Says:

    Worse rookie season; Rojo or Darden?

  35. Dman Says:

    Alvafan – think you nailed it. New season. Let’s see what the kid did for himself in the off season. Crowded WR room. Better have packed on some muscle and cleared his head.

  36. tampabayallday Says:

    Nothing about his game made it seem like he just needed to be more confident.

  37. Alvafan Says:

    allday: Then you missed the tape of his training camp work and some early season receiver plays. There was a definite fall off after he went into concussion protocol.

  38. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    The Grammar Po Po shows up on a football fan site to post about his pet peeve correcting a poster on how to structure a sentence and then ends his post with “write right” !!! Excuse me Ocifer Crickett Noise you should’ve used “type correctly” because more than likely he used a phone, tablet or computer to “type” his response not pen and paper to “write” it! Nothing worse than a person who thinks they’re better than others because they speak or write “more grammatically correctly”(how’d you like that one???) than others. Dude you’re really going to hate when you listen to many of these football players or half of this nation’s population! Are you going to post this mess every time someone misses a punctuation mark or uses contractions which aren’t really grammatically correct as well???

    On a side note give Darden a chance like you all have Scooter. Small school player not yet ready for the big leagues but chosen by Brady. Gotta be something there. Some dudes do do better once they get more experience just like most do when they start a new job and knowledge+experience+confidence start working together. If he doesn’t improve this year then yeah this is the Not For Long league so yeah he’s gotta go to another team.

  39. Goatfarmer Says:

    This thread is pure gold.

    And Dardung still sucks.

  40. Stone crab sam Says:

    Remember when capece was kaput?
    Well Darden is just dung😎

  41. Buczilla Says:

    Even Rojo looked much better his second year, so there is hope for this dude.

  42. Dooley Says:

    Darden did a youtube interview w/Routegod this past week and went into a little bit of details on the ups and downs of being a rookie WR.

  43. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:

    He was awful as a returner, and we have depth at receiver with Grayson, Perriman, Johnson, and Miller. This dude will need to absolutely need to prove that he deserves to make the team over those guys, and I just don’t see it.