Fitness Warrior Jaelon Darden

June 7th, 2022

Second-year receiver/returner Jaelon Darden

Back in 2017, there was a lot of love flowing from One Buc Palace for how well running back Doug Martin was running in an official team sandbox during April training.

For some fans, not Joe, that brought hope that the Bucs, returning the fourth-worst rushing offense (yards per carry) in the NFL, did the right thing by not drafting one of the many quality running back prospects in that year’s draft.

The hope was for Martin to come back from his looming September suspension return to his Pro Bowl form of 2015.

Reality had other ideas. Sandbox dominance and looking good with his shirt off didn’t translate to Martin reviving his career. He simply repeated the 2.9 yards per carry he had in 2016, while rookie Alvin Kamara electrified the league with 1,552 combined rushing and receiving yards with 13 touchdowns.

Joe was reminded of the Sandbox Hamster today when Bucs head coach Todd Bowles noted how second-year receiver Jaelon Darden kicked ass during the Bucs’ Phase 2 conditioning program several weeks ago.

Bowles lauded Darden’s worth ethic and performance since players reported back to work in early April.

“It’s not just today, I think he had a good offseason. His Phase II was outstanding – his OTAs were great and he’s picking up where he left off,” Bowles said.

Joe’s not sure where Darden “left off,” but Darden told Route God recently that he’s working to master the playbook and came a long way last season as a receiver even without many chances.

“I think he’s got his head down, he’s working, he’s in-shape, he understands the offense, and he’s just letting his play speak for itself. Right now, it’s been pretty good,” Bowles said.

There was a lot of enthusiasm in Bowles’ assessment of Darden (relatively speaking, of course, Bowles is a very chill cat at press conferences).

With all the quality bodies competing for receiver positions after Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage, Darden is will have to stand out in order to stay off the waiver wire.

Of course, the massive X-factor is Tom Brady’s trust. That’s harder to achieve that being fit and focused in Phase II conditioning.

47 Responses to “Fitness Warrior Jaelon Darden”

  1. Buc4evr Says:

    No matter what Darden does he doesn’t have football sense or athleticism to beat the other receivers out. He has shown what he can do as a kick returner – not much. Bucs should bring in Julio to help Gage cover for Godwin.

  2. AlabamaBucsFan Says:

    It hard to admit you wasted a 4th round pick. I think getting a 6th round pick in next year’s draft would soften the blow.

  3. WVBucFan Says:

    Alot of people want to kill the kid because he struggled his rookie season. Bucs fans have been spoiled by the likes of Davis, Winfield, Wirfs… Its not normal for Rookies to do what they did, let alone 7th rd rookies…. Cappa struggled his frist 2 years before turning into a top G in the league. Shoot Barber was only active 2 games his rookie season. Let the kid develop before killing him

  4. WVBucFan Says:

    4th Round* Pick

  5. Goatfarmer Says:

    What a riot!

    Kenny Bell and DJax the Bad were both raved about in non-football drills too.

    Dardung sucks. Sucked. Had sucked. Has sucked. Will suck. Will have sucked.

  6. Mike Says:

    Wow, you guys are killing me with this article. How about we just give the kid credit for coming back ready to go. He’s working hard, he’s in shape, he knows the playbook, and he’s ready to be a productive player for the Bucs.

  7. Joe in Michigan Says:

    I wish the kid the best of luck in whatever career path he chooses. Football, I’m not so sure about…That said, I didn’t think Cyril Grayson would ever be good at football, and I was proven wrong in a small sample size.

  8. WhatTheBuc Says:

    All of these jbfers that are writing off Darden are the same fools that wrote off Cappa, Vea, Godwin, and the like. Can we give the guy more than 1 season before we decide he’s not going to be any good?

  9. Vance Says:

    Give Periman or Scooter a chance at kick returns and let JD become trade bait.

  10. Mike Johnson Says:

    Lets wish the kid the best of luck. Somebody saw something in him to keep him around. So he must have talent. You never know, He might turn out to be a burner.

  11. Crunchbuc Says:

    Rather he be a receiver.

  12. Marine Buc Says:

    With Gidwin being out until at least week 4 – we will need someone to step up. Johnson, Darden, Perriman, Miller, Grayson – one of these cats need rise up and fill the gap…

  13. Marine Buc Says:

    Lol… Godwin.

  14. ModHairKen Says:

    Blah. Blah. Blah. Let’s see something. It wasn’t conditioning that was the problem. It was his abject fear of being hit.

  15. Crickett Baker Says:

    Well, maybe he will be better in another position besides failing in his attempts as a kick returner. The people around him seem to see something in him (unless they are all just trying to give him confidence ((which he sure did not have last year))). He has been training off-season–Route God and all. Maybe he is improved. I give him one more chance, reluctantly.

  16. Mort Says:

    You guys need to lay off a rookie small school WR for having a slower adjustment to the NFL. Good thing y’all weren’t running things when Ronde, Lynch and others were young players or they’d have likely been cut too. Idiots.

  17. Kgh4life Says:

    Talk to me when he put the pads on.

  18. SB~LV Says:

    I have the kids back, I was not expecting much more than a sign of progress and I saw some.
    This year his will have to actually compete for a very competitive roster spot among a extremely talented WR room.

  19. Another j Says:

    We gave Ronald Jones a few years to figure it out.
    We should give Darden a chance to prove what could do this year.

  20. Eddie Marz Says:

    Not a fan yet of Darden, but let’s give him another chance. First year he gave us nothing as a receiver. Has got a lot to prove. GOBUCS!

  21. Alvafan Says:

    We got your point the first hundred times Bully Goat

  22. Ash Says:

    He is putting the work in not gonna roast a rookie like he was supposed to be an all pro see where he is at after a few games before anyone can tell what he really is he is buc so Ill hope for his success.

  23. Joe Says:

    All of these jbfers that are writing off Darden are the same fools that wrote off Cappa, Vea, Godwin, and the like.

    Who exactly wrote off Godwin??? LOL

  24. Maniac Buc Says:

    Best receiver on the team not Named Evans, Godwin or Gage. By the end of the year, it’s going to be a whole lot of people with Dardung on their faces…

  25. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    So, what’s the alternative…..coming in fat & drunk….with diarrhea in his pants?

  26. firethecannons Says:

    underwear hero no thanks saw enough last year anyone of those collapses on the field last year could of led to a fumble around the endzone. We need a solid dependable returner, not this kid who gets blown up before the contact is even on him.

  27. CleanHouse Says:

    He’s supposed to be the next AB except not crazy, let’s see….

  28. Pewter Power Says:

    The kid came in ready to go this year, doesn’t need anyone to tell him it wasn’t a good season

    I people hate like it’s a life skill. Russell Gage had 6 catches for 63 yards as a rookie. Darden can turn into something if he keeps working like coaches say he is.

  29. SOEbuc Says:

    Point out the bandwagon easily when they say trade him after his rookie year. Glad you’re not my GM.

  30. Bucsfan4ever Says:

    I had high hopes for the kid last year. ….

  31. Dooley Says:

    It’s why you wait 3 years to truly evaluate a draft pick. Guys don’t learn at the same rate once they hit the pros and I think Mickens put the team in a position with his offseason nonsense in 2021 that kind of forced the staffs hand replacing him as a returner with Darden. I’m hoping Darden has a good mini & training camp, but I’ll be waiting to hear how he does when the joint practices start and he gets his first crack at an actual opponent. If not for the betterment of the team, its to shut some of you idiots up about the kid struggling on special teams as a rookie.

  32. NDog is an Idiot Says:

    Let’s see what he’s got this Pre Season. Could be he was thinking too much as a Rookie! Let his instincts take over now! Less thinking

  33. Craig Says:

    We know he is good on roller skates, we don’t know what he looks like in real cleats.

    Why he kept wearing roller skates in a football game cause some serious questions.

  34. BelleGladeBuc Says:

    Nobody is an idiot for stating that Darden was not a good special team’s player last year. It’s a fact that Darden was a horrible NFL return man. If you have a problem with those facts then I can’t help you because facts don’t have feelings.

    Anybody who would argue otherwise is the idiot who needs to shut up.

    Those people don’t understand that there’s a reason it’s nicknamed Not For Long for players who perform poorly like Darden did last year.

    With this being TB12’s last dance I have zero patience for developing a player at a critical position on special teams such as kick returner.

  35. Dooley Says:


    I can assure you nobody on the Bucs roster cares about your level of patience and again, finding a player to consistently rag and just regurgitating the same talking points as a crowd for months signifies you need more patience and better understanding/appreciation for what rookies go through transitioning from amateurs to pros. I’m really looking forward to seeing Darden take some steps forward in year 2 and I hope he can shut as many people up as possible.

  36. BelleGladeBuc Says:


    The entire Bucs organization has less patience than me when it comes to a struggling 4th round WR/KR draft pick who averaged less than 20 yards per return, catching 6 balls for 42 yards total for the 2021 season.

    Facts don’t have feelings.

  37. Dooley Says:


    saying “facts” after sharing an opinion based on YOUR feelings doesn’t make it factual. Dardens’ struggled as a rookie return man, fact, you using your impatience as a talent evaluator to speak for anybody in the Bucs organization is make believe. Again, I hope Darden makes you and anybody who’s been constantly ragging on him, eat their words this season. I’m hoping for a mess halls worth of egg on faces.

  38. BelleGladeBuc Says:


    My evaluation of Darden is not an opinion.

    6 catches for 42 yards total, averaging 7 yards per reception, during a 17 game season is a horrible season for an NFL WR.

    A 19 yard kickoff return average is not good for an NFL KR.

    You disagree with me, stating that those stats are good for and NFL WR/KR.

    Darden is not worthy of one of the 54 roster spots this year based off of his performance last year.

    Unfortunately for you, and thankfully for anybody with a good football IQ, they agree with me and not @Dooley.

  39. Cobraboy Says:

    Fingers crossed you can teach a box of rocks some new tricks…

  40. David Says:

    A rookie didn’t explode on the scene and half the idiots commenting here are ready to write him off like he’s horrible and should never be given another chance. Pathetic. Practice means nothing, I get that, but crap, give the kid a chance. He came in a few pounds heavier with muscle and the coaches like what they see, great!! How about some optimism maybe? Or is that too much to ask from so many buccaneer fans that just want to find the negative in every single thing possible?

    The kid is quick as a cat, I hope he does fantastic!

  41. Dreambig Says:

    Really not worth talking much about. Late round pick who struggled. Scared me to death every time the ball went his way, but to his credit, he didn’t drop many, but he never flashed, he just went down early and often. I threw a million cuss words his way to just let the damn ball go in the end zone so we could start at the 25. Instead, especially early in the year, he would take it at the three, trip at the 15, and it was 1st and 10 at the 16, hence all the swearing. If he makes second year strides, fantastic. If he doesn’t, next man up.

  42. BelleGladeBuc Says:

    This is who Jaelon Darden is competing against for a roster spot:

    Mike Evans
    Chris Godwin
    Russel Gage
    Brashad Perriman
    Scotty Miller
    Tyler Johnson
    Cyril Grayson

    Don’t be shocked if the Bucs use Rachad White as a WR. He’s 6’2 with great hands, good speed with a RB’s vision and instincts.

    There’s also UDFA that will compete for a roster spot.

    To keep Jaelon Darden you will have to cut one of the above players. Who out of the above list is Jaelon Darden better than as we head into an all in TB12 Last Dance season?

    That’s the situation.

  43. geno711 Says:

    I want to know who Joe thought were the group of quality running back in the 2017 draft.

    The 1st 10 taken were:
    1. James Conner
    2. Samaje Perine
    3. Tarik Cohen
    4. Joe Williams
    5. Donnel Pumphrey
    6. Jamaal Williams
    7. Wayne Gallman
    8. Marlon Mack
    9. Brian Hill
    10. Jeremy McNichols

  44. geno711 Says:

    BelleGladeBuc Says:

    This is who Jaelon Darden is competing against for a roster spot:

    … Cyril Grayson

    I am like you and at this point appreciate Cyril Grayson more than Darden.

    Simply put, Grayson could get cut and we keep Darden.

    To double down on that, the NFL injured reserve rule for 2022 is 4 games. So they could keep Darden at the initial 53 man roster and cut Grayson. Then put Godwin on IR and bring back Grayson before the 1st game of the season.

    By the time Godwin is back, if no one else (WR) gets injured then I think that either Darden or Grayson could be put on IR with some phantom injury at that point just to have a guy that knows the team system (or the one the Bucs just like less at that point just gets cut).

  45. BelleGladeBuc Says:


    I agree with you that it’s Grayson vs Darden.

    TB12 had more chemistry with Grayson than Darden, and that factor must be accounted for.

    On the active roster the Bucs had 3 TE’s last year.

    Right now the Bucs have these TE’s on the roster:

    Cam Brate
    Cade Otten
    Ko Kieft

    When Rob Gronkowski signs, then that makes 4.

    All 4 of those will make the active roster.

    Kieft will help lighten Gronk’s blocking responsibilities because Kieft’s a beast.

    Otten and Brate are your 2 pass catching TE’s. The Bucs will keep all of them.

    Gronk is an every down TE who needs the load lightened on him and that’s why the Bucs drafted 2 TE’s.

    Carrying 4 TE will affect other position groups on this roster, and thus Darden.

  46. geno711 Says:

    BelleGladeBuc Says:
    June 8th, 2022 at 7:18 pm

    Think about 75% chance Kieft is practice squad guy 15% chance that he makes team and 10% chance he gets cut.

  47. Goatfarmer Says:

    The thing people miss about Dardung is his route running. No wait it’s his hands. No wait it’s his blocking. Of course it’s his return skills!

    The reason everybody misses these things? He blows at all of them. Did. Does. Will.

    BellGladeBuc for President. Trade Dardung to the Toronto Argonauts for a six pack of Molson.