Special Teams Coach Keith Armstrong Thinks Jaelon Darden Should Be Given Another Shot

May 3rd, 2022

Bucs special teams coach Keith Armstrong.

Now Joe understands that when coaches speak at a podium — or if you are Bucs safeties coach Nick Rapone you wander away from the podium as if you are in a town hall setting — their answers are sometimes as much messages sent to players as they are answers to reporters.

Sometimes it is even more messaging than answering.

So Joe gets that Bucs special teams coach Keith Armstrong didn’t want to bury returner Jaelon Darden in early May. But Joe sure got the whiff from Armstrong that the Bucs haven’t chained themselves to Darden as their return guy.

Armstrong wasn’t harsh when Joe asked him to assess Darden’s rookie season and if the Bucs are wed to him as their return guy.

“I think we have to take another chance with Jaelon,” Armstrong said of Darden’s poor rookie season. “Take a look at him. I like him, as a punt returner. I know he had the big punt return against Chicago, I think it was for 43 yards.

“I think we can get that to happen more often. We have to do a better job of blocking for him.”

The blocking angle is a fair comment. The Bucs had very poor special teams play overall last year and one guy’s awful play, albeit a very important guy, wasn’t the sole reason.

Armstrong did not address the element of Joe’s question — whether Darden was locked in as the returner this fall. But he sort of answered indirectly later in his presser.

When Armstrong was asked if rookie corner Zyon McCollum and his 4.3 speed can be a returner, Armstrong replied, “We are going to find out.”

Time to step up, Jaelon.

40 Responses to “Special Teams Coach Keith Armstrong Thinks Jaelon Darden Should Be Given Another Shot”

  1. SB~LV Says:

    His and one trick ponies roster spot should be WIDE open and the best guy at the end of camp make the 53

  2. D-Rok Says:

    A competition for returner. I like it.

  3. HC Grover Says:

    What kine of shot?

  4. Beeej Says:

    What were his stats for 2021 compared to Mickens for 2020?

  5. Adrnagy Says:

    Another shot at the practice squad yes. Imo mickens did better

  6. tampabayallday Says:

    That’s a no from me fam.

  7. GOB Says:

    Punt returners have because devalued. Part of it is because modern punters can fairly easily negate them. Another reason is the increased value teams have placed on roster spots in general. One things for sure, the bucs were bad across the board and must improve.

  8. GOB Says:

    Become, freaking auto correct

  9. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Armstrong is by far the worst coach on this staff and probably pushed for this XFL player to be on the field. If Darden is playing then there are some serious issues in the decision making process in the new HC

  10. Will Says:

    Our special teams haven’t been anything to write a great story about since before and after Armstrong became the ST coach. If they’re terrible again this year it’s time to get rid of him. Hopefully in his 2nd stint as head coach Todd knows you can’t be too loyal to a coach and become a detriment to the team.

  11. Scotty in Fat Antonio Says:

    I’m still wanting to see his return highlights from college and stats. Again, what made the Bucs think he would make a good returner? Because he is fast? LMAO!

  12. Onetrickpony Says:

    Miller ?

  13. zzbuc Says:

    Just one punt for 43yrds???
    Come on coach!!!!!
    Everybody knows that’s quite sad…..

    We need much more than that……

  14. David Says:

    Darden needs to add 10 pounds of muscle and be a little more fearless. If he doesn’t, ZYON might take the return job, because he looks fearless on tape.
    That receiver room is looking kind of crowded for Darden, he’s 7th, 8th when Godwin comes back.
    I like him, I hope he steps it up.

  15. David Says:

    One trick pony,
    they tried Miller a little, he didn’t do much either. Miller‘s problem is he has straight line speed and nothing else. Darden was dancing around too much. Someone needs to step up. The rookie has all the tools, should be interesting.

  16. sasquatch Says:

    Bashing players is a pastime on this platform. It gets old.

    Darden was a rookie. He has talent, and if it’s harnessed, he could become a good player. I don’t think anyone is holding their breath, but it makes sense to give him every opportunity to showcase and refine his skills. Nobody is handing him the job, at all, and Licht has been perfectly willing to move on from a draft pick. So, I’m not worried about this guy taking up a roster spot this year if he doesn’t earn it… Arguably, he was handed a roster spot over Mickens last year because of the 4th round investment and they wanted to at least give him a shot. That won’t happen this year. I think they’ll be looking to get better, either with a different player or by drastic improvement by Darden.

  17. DoooshLaRue Says:

    Armstrong ain’t real smart is he?

  18. AlabamaBucsFan Says:

    Bucs should consider finding another Special Teams Coach. Keith Armstrong hasn’t done squat the past few years. We should recruit an assistant ST coach from the Saints.

  19. Crickett Baker Says:

    Drastic improvement! I don’t think he has it in him, personally..

  20. Texas Buc 1976 Says:

    Our special teams are terrible. Why is this coach still here? So, Darden isn’t the only one to blame? It was also the blocking? So who’s in charge of the blocking? Blockhead.

  21. DG060 Says:

    Where’s the accountability for fielding crappy special teams year after year?
    Last year was ATROCIOUS. Sure i’ll give Darden another shot. In training camp and preseason. I’d cut him in a country second if there’s not significant improvement.

  22. PassingThru Says:

    Darden runs too much East-West. He appears light and easy to tackle.

    Let’s not throw Darden under the bus; a golf cart would probably do the trick.

  23. Bucamania Says:

    I’ve seen what I needed to see. Dude runs scared, looking for a place to fall. Next.

  24. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    With the constant denigration….it’s a wonder he hasn’t been cut already…..of course he deserves another shot….he was a rookie & it is a fact that our return blocking his horrible.
    What I’m concerned about is his progress at WR….that’s the reason he should be on the roster….we have others who can return punts & kickoffs..

    Evans, Godwin, Gage, Perriman, Johnson, Grayson, Miller, Darden

    That’s 8 wide outs………all it takes is one UDFA to make the squad and Darden could be gone…..or he could be gone if they decide on 7 WRs….

  25. teacherman777 Says:

    Darden walks flat footed. He’s light and weak. He plays scared.

    He didn’t earn his job. It was given to him.

    Like Benenoch was given a job.

    We must stop giving jobs to draft picks. It’s unfair and unprofesional.

    Mickens was far better as a returner and receiver.

    Darden looks like a scared high schooler. And he didn’t evolve as the year went on.

    Go look at Julian Edelman his rookie season. And then in year 2. He physically evolved.

    And Julian was never scared of getting hit. He did the hitting himself!

    Darden, Hainsey, and Trask are all busts.

  26. Eckwood Says:

    Some guys just have a style that they can’t get away from ………. Cut, cut back , slow up cut , acccelerate three steps cut , turn up field and hesitate looking to cut …… Cut first run second doesn’t work in the NFL ……. He is prob a great flag football player ….. I don’t know how he ever ran a 40 yard dash , he can’t go 5 steps w out looking to cut 🤨🤬

  27. Dooley Says:

    I’m starting to thinking Darden is just low hanging fruit for you guys to piss & moan about. Nobody taking into account it was his rookie year, or the fact he hadn’t returned a kick since year 1 of gus 4 year college career and he was asked to do it while acclaimating himself to pro speed and competition. Thats a tall order and some of you cant run a bath w/o losing your breath, so relax, cut the kid some slack.

  28. Nutbucer Says:

    I think the special teams coach gets one last shot. He has been the weakest link in the coaching staff for several years.

  29. Hodad Says:

    Darden to the PS.

  30. Listnfrmafar Says:

    WHY???? Fire the ST coach, he obviously has no idea what he’s doing.

  31. Brandon Says:

    My problem with Darden is that he couldn’t outrun anyone to the corner and his only threat is speed. What good is a little fast guy if he isn’t really that fast?

  32. Bucs Guy Says:

    Competition is a good thing if it happens in training camp on the field.

  33. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Other problems besides lack of blocking for Darden:

    1) Falling down without contact.

    2) Running east to west and gunners being faster than him.

    Hopefully Armstrong either saw this during games or on film, the Bucs need a better return game this year.

  34. Beej Says:

    Mickens had better stats last year

  35. Joe Says:

    Bashing players is a pastime on this platform. It gets old.

    Darden was a rookie. He has talent, and if it’s harnessed, he could become a good player.


    The Bucs were not a developmental team or a USFL team where a guy can have a full season as a tryout. The Bucs were trying to get back to the Super Bowl. Darden had no business being on the field. The team’s best returner got cut for Darden to try out.

    If the Bucs were a middling, rebuilding team, big, big difference. They were not. And having Darden shat the bed every game was irresponsible to the rest of the team.

    Would you have been OK if the Bucs started Robert Hainsey all season instead of Alex Cappa under the guise that he was learning and needed time?

  36. Alvafan Says:

    Good one Joe. It may be semantics but Mickens didn’t get cut. He was picked off the practice squad by the Jags cause they ran out of protection for him. The one play that was a real head scratcher was when he caught a little dump pass and got stripped with the ball going 10 feet in the air. It was his mistake definitely a fumble but Brady got charged with an interception. Darden looked good in training camp but when the bright lights came on he shrunk to his real size. They shouldn’t waste a roster spot again. Last year was enough.

  37. cmurda Says:

    If Keith Armstrong is serious, I have to wonder how many shots Keith gets? If he were a cat, my man would be broken down and on his last life. Another shot…..Puhleez. No, forget another shot. Get Scottie back there or anybody else. Dexter Ja…. I mean Darden is not the answer.

  38. Bucs Win Says:

    Armstrong talks a good game, whatever he sucks. Check yo sheet.

  39. Vinny from Vermont Says:

    One question an objective observer might ask is:
    Would a player on most any NFL team still be around after multiple years of
    non-performance? I believe any rational person would answer “No”,
    Yet, for several years now we watch our ST coach (Armstrong) give lip service to improving special teams…and for that same time frame we have seen no discernible improvement, and it could easily be argued that we are getting worse.

    The video evidence is in. Mickens departs in favor of Darden, and we get substantially worse on our returns. With seconds on the clock and the game on the line, our kickoff to the Colts was nearly run back for a touchdown, and only poor execution by QB Wentz saved the day. There are many, many more examples as any casual observer can attest. Yet Armstrong somehow survives yet another season.

    What message do you think it sends the other coaches and players, when they see a lack of results rewarded with yet another year under contract?
    It/s not a good look for new HC Bowles.

  40. HomerSimpsonRocks Says:

    I think the kid has potential, but if you watch all his social media practice videos, he’s shuffling his feet abs cutting and zigzagging way too much. You play like you practice. Run normal NFL routes! Needs to change his muscle memory.