Two Young Players Making Big Plays

August 7th, 2022

Athletic ability displayed.

Joe periodically gets asked about the following two players, so here is what Joe is seeing, specifically today.

When cornerback Zyon McCollum was drafted out of Sam Houston State, the anti-small school crowd groaned. One reason McCollum was drafted, outside of playing like a man against children in Division I-AA, wsa that McCollum is considered a freak athlete.

The stat geek outfit SIS claimed McCollum was the most athletic corner to be drafted since 1987.

So far McCollum has played with the second team and he’s not embarrassing himself. But he really hadn’t stood out or flashed. Until today.

If you count the number of touches a running back gets in training camp and the number of targets he gets in the passing game, it sure seems like either Gio Bernard or Rachaad White will be Playoff Lenny’s backup.

(That’s not a knock on Ke’Shawn Vaughn in any way. He doesn’t have nearly as many touches as Bernard or White — and no, Joe does not know why that is but one can connect dots).

Today during 11-on-11s, Bernard, as he has done several times, got loose past the line and took off and looked like he was headed for the end zone. But no! McCollum appeared out of nowhere and ran down Bernard along the right sideline and tackled him from behind.

It was a superb play by the rookie. It sort of reminded Joe of the time Darrell Green ran down Eric Dickerson from behind. McCollum’s play wasn’t nearly as spectacular and McCollum didn’t come anywhere close to making up that much real estate, but it was reminiscent.

Guys like skill position players Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, McCollum and White, all rookies, can be seen gradually improving daily. With Otton and White, that means more touches, too.

Showing He Belongs

Joe will type the bitter truth: Jaelon Darden has yet to demonstrate to Joe he belongs on and NFL field. He was virtually useless as a return man last year and the only time he was on the field much as a receiver is when the Bucs were desperate due to injuries.

This training camp, at least the past couple of practices, Darden is starting to demonstrate he’s an NFL receiver.

Darden yesterday made a crazy catch from Tom Brady when he skied high along the right sideline and was just able to get both feet inbounds before tumbling out of bounds. It was an outstanding play

Today he made a similar catch but Darden made one later that was more impressive because it was for a touchdown. In goal line drills, Brady went back to pass. He looked and looked and then threw for Darden in the middle of the end zone where a window developed. Brady threw low to make sure it was not picked and Darden went to the ground to pull it in.

Why was Joe more impressed with that catch? Well, Darden had to work to get open. And the Bucs defense, which shut down the Chiefs in the Super Bowl a year and a half ago, has been balling out in practice of late.

The fact Brady trusted Darden and that Darden fought his way open in a crowded end zone was nice. For Joe, that demonstrates Darden just might have a spot on the roster come Week 1.

Now if he can just show in a regular season game he belongs on the field with the return teams …

30 Responses to “Two Young Players Making Big Plays”

  1. lambeau Says:

    Brutal competition in the WR room.

  2. Goatfarmer Says:

    Dardung is as Dardung does. Kenny Bell looked good in drills, too. So did Dexter Jackson II. Dardung and Trashk might get to play on the Toronto Argonauts practice squad.

  3. Lt. Dan Says:

    @ Joe’s; i like this new format. You give us a couple of teasers and then later your fu blown practice notes. Here’s to hoping this continues. Mahalo.

  4. Lt. Dan Says:

    *full not fu…

  5. Chris Tucker@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Zyon McCollum would not have run Rasheed White down, the way he did Gio Bernard.
    This is the problem with Bernard. He can catch well, but he is not much of a threat after he catches the ball, compared to Rasheed White.

  6. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I’m starting to think that Grayson & Miller will be the odd men out on our WR corps…..
    Unless….we make a trade with Perriman…..IMO, he is the most logical trade bait if a #1, #2 or even a # 3 WR gets injured in TC…..he’s got a guaranteed salary of $1,047,500 has great speed and experience…

    From what I’m hearing so far Tyler Johnson & Jaelon Dardon along with Perriman will occupy the 7 man WR roster spots.

  7. sasquatch Says:

    Rasheed… Rachaad… 6 of one…

  8. Bird Says:

    Mccollum looks like JTS little brother. 😂

    Yah not sold on dardun. Never seen a guy go to the ground so easily. He probably led the league in shoe string tackles against last year. It almost seemed like he was trying to avoid contact at all times.

  9. Maniac Buc Says:

    I’ve said it numerous times, in terms of Darden, Johnson and Miller, Darden is by far more talented than the other two. It’s not even particularly close honestly. He definitely has a by far greater future in this league. The Bucs see it. The fans that don’t like don’t like Darden are ironically, or not ironically, Scotty Miller fans and would rather see a better player released so they can keep being fanboys for an absolute terrible WR. Outside of the top 4, no receiver has a greater chance to make this team. In fact, there is a ZERO percent chance Darden is cut.

  10. Maniac Buc Says:

    On a different note, I really like McCollum. I think in 10 years we could look back and say that guy was the steal of the 2022 draft. I don’t just think he’s a player, I think he’s extremely special. While I admit not knowing him draft day, everything I’ve learned about him and watching his film, albeit against subpar comp is like how did this guy not go in the first round.

  11. Joe Says:

    I’ve said it numerous times, in terms of Darden, Johnson and Miller, Darden is by far more talented than the other two. It’s not even particularly close honestly. He definitely has a by far greater future in this league. The Bucs see it.

    You can be the most talented SOB in the world but if you do not produce, it doesn’t matter.

    Darden, outside of a few practices this summer, has shown zilch. He’s produced nothing. The Bucs are trying to win a Super Bowl. You do that with production, not hope.

    There is no comparison between Darden and Tyler Johnson. Two completely different receivers. Johnson was drafted mostly to play slot. There is no way Darden could play slot without getting destroyed. And Johnson, unlike Darden, has produced. He’s just inconsistent.

    Miller has produced, both on special teams and on offense. In huge games too.

    Darden very well could be more talented. But at the end of the day, you have to perform. On the field. In a regular season or playoff game. To date, Darden has not. (What, one return for over 20 yards? One!)

  12. D-Rok Says:

    I agree, Lt. Dan – I like the “new format” also. It’s much more enjoyable having a teaser piece that links to the practice notes later. Good stuff, Joes.

  13. Maniac Buc Says:

    @Joe Miller hasn’t produced anything. 3 hunned odd yards in 8 games while every one was hurt. That’s it, that’s all. Worse route runner by far I have ever seen, and you know that also. His routes are laughable. Those special team plays anybody could have made.

    The fact that Johnson is a slot makes Darden more valuable honestly. Darden is without a doubt not a slot, and neither is Miller, no matter how many people continue to compare him to Welker and Edelman. But Darden offers a lot more to this team beside deep fly routes and 1 yard end arounds. That punt return you speak of was the 8 longest in the NFL last year, and punt and return stats are down across the board across the league. ST is cool, but Darden is a damned good receiver. You’ll see.

    . Johnson won’t be cut either IMO. In fact, I think Darden and Johnson are locks to make this team and I think it’s a lock after preseason that Miller will be gone. I actually like Miller, he’s a hard worker who is willing to do whatever for the team. But hard worker don’t make you a football player.

  14. Joe Says:

    @Joe Miller hasn’t produced anything.

    You sure?

  15. Maniac Buc Says:

    Joe Says:
    August 7th, 2022 at 1:13 pm
    @Joe Miller hasn’t produced anything.

    You sure?
    Dude has like 365 yards opening 2020 due to injuries. In his other 29 games he has 365 yard. You know how many broken tackles he has in his career since we talk about Darden going down so easy? 1. That’s it. The catch against the GB, I could have burn King terrible DB playing arse. That was just good coaching getting him matched up on king. We know he can run. Most his plays in the NFL has been because he can run. But that’s all he can do.

    I’m a fan of the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. I like players, but could honestly careless about most of them unless it’s connected to the Bucs. That why I made the commented the other day about Suh, JPP, AB and at this Jensen not even needing to be discussed. I’ll cut Mike Evans right now if I could sign 6 receivers better and wouldn’t think twice about it or him. Tom Brady too. Miller isn’t better than Darden, he just has more fans.

  16. SteelStudBuc Says:

    Scotty Miller is hands down way better than Darden. He plays more special teams too. Kickoff, punt gunner extraordinaire… how many turnovers has Darden caused? How many touchdowns has he scored?

  17. Kentucky Buc Says:

    A lot of you guys seem to be judging Darden on being a returner last year. This is his first real year of being in the returner mix. I’ll wait and see. Year 2 is big for a lot of players.

  18. Dooley Says:

    Jaelon Darden could be slowly silencing his critics and I’m rooting for him to do it as fast as possible.

  19. Lt. Dan Says:

    Darden may – stress, may, be the better athlete but Scotty Miller, at this point, has shown that he is the far better football player. And it’s not close.

  20. Irishmist Says:

    Maniac- Not only can he run, but, unlike a lot of speed guys, he can catch. I’ve never seen him drop a big pass, and he is good at going down to the ground and catching those low balls Brady likes to throw. I’m not a big believer in getting rid of guys who have proven they can produce when the stakes are high.

  21. Goatfarmer Says:

    Hairy Ken has a blind and unhealthy obsession for Dardung. Maybe he’s Dardung’s drunk uncle from the basement. I guess if it takes talent to trip over a blade of grass, continually fall down while running routes, let a punt bounce instead of catching it, let a ball clang off the shoulder pads, then Dardung is a pro bowl talent because those are the attributes he shows the most.

    The Miller narrative is hilarious, like lots of narratives, if it’s repeated enough by enough morons, it gets believed. Miller had turf toe last year. Try to cut on a turf toe. No. You can’t.

    Fortunately Byron, TB12, and JL will review the performance and potential of all WRs in camp. Dardung is a lock for the Montreal Alouettes practice squad. Julio just may be odd man out, as Tyler and Miller both are showing out in practice and Permian is injured. Grayson seems to be getting his name mentioned enough to indicate he’s playing well.

    Tough decision for the final 7. Dardung? Easy decision.

  22. Buc king Says:

    Preseason..injuries and godwin return will decide a lot of jobs…
    I’m hearing good things about all the wide outs at this point so..when it counts will see what we are made 3 Preseason games to figure it out.. I’m more concerned with lt LG n c..
    Those are my offensive question marks… n dline depth…
    It be great to get suh n gronk.back but seems like a pipe dream

  23. David Says:

    This arguing is somewhat stupid. Just take it all in and be thankful that the Buccaneers have a solid 7 deep receiver corp. This is AWESEOME!!!
    Evans, Godwin, Gage, Jones, then Darden, Miller, Johnson, Grayson, Perriman

    They go nine deep. I still think they keep Perriman, Miller and Johnson and send Grayson and Darden to the practice squad but a lot can change during the preseason games.

  24. David Says:

    JOE –
    Do teams consider who can stay on a practice squad and who would be taken?.

    Meaning, if they send Scotty Miller to the practice squad he’s probably going to be scooped up by another team.
    If they send Darden, he may be there in 4-6 weeks when they need him if someone is injured.

  25. Maniac Buc Says:

    @Goatfarmer, you’re literally the most insane person on this site. But we all know why Scotty is so popular, and it has nothing to do with skills. He’s literally the worse route runner in NFL history.

  26. Goatfarmer Says:

    Dardung might get scooped up, but more like the poop in the back yard.

  27. mark2001 Says:

    David… Grayson over Perryman.

  28. firethecannons Says:

    wait to see it myself in a preseason game Darden was hot garbage last year–multiple trips and falls which put the ball at risk close to the endzone not gonna get behind that till it is clear he has markedly improved

  29. Wild Bill Says:

    One of the worst attributes an athlete can have in any sport is being timid. Darden looked very timid last season. Speed kills but timidity looses.

  30. Goatfarmer Says:

    Hairy Ken’s love for Dardung is as out of control as his contempt for a guy who has produced for the Bucs multiple times in the playoffs — Miller.

    And a guy whose handle is “Maniac” writing such lunacy such as Miller can’t run routes shouldn’t be calling anyone insane. Ko Kinect can’t catch either. The world is flat. Martians live underground on Mars. Brady is really a woman. All true.