TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Now 12 practices into training camp, the Buccaneers are just a week away from their first preseason action. For the rookies, this will be their first taste of an NFL football game.
Among the rookies expected to contribute right away is wide receiver Jaelon Darden. The Bucs traded up to get Darden in the fourth round out of North Texas with his blazing speed. A role on special teams as a returner is where he should get most of his work out of the gates.
So far, Bucs Head Coach Bruce Arians has liked what he’s seen from the speedster.
“Oh yeah, Jaelon, he’s improved,” Arians said. “He’s just learning routes versus man. We specifically put him in one-on-ones because he’s been struggling. He’s beating everybody clean and he keeps breaking back (instead of) going for touchdowns. Just go for the touchdown. He’ll see it, he’ll learn it, but he’s getting off the line of scrimmage really, really well.”
“Definitely feeling comfortable day by day,” Darden said about his progress two weeks into camp. “I’m taking it day by day – ‘Coach G’ (Wide Receivers Coach Kevin Garver) is doing a great job with guiding me, kind of slowing the process down for me. I feel like I’m doing a good job coming out here, making plays and helping my teammates as best as possible”
And Darden’s got some pretty talented teammates to learn from in that wide receivers group, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown to name a few. He said those guys have been encouraging and telling him to stay in his playbook.
“He’s a really good, young player,” Evans said. “He’s going to be big for us this year. He might be the return man, but I don’t know yet. He’s looking real good. (He has) a lot of juice.”
Inevitably, mistakes will happen as Darden adjusts to his new team and the NFL, but any tough coaching along the way he said he takes in stride. In fact, he said he’s been prepared for that type of feedback his whole life– starting at home.
“I’ve been dealing with my moms like that so I’ve been dealing with that for a long time,” Darden joked when asked about Arians’ coaching style. “If anything it just motivates me to go harder seeing somebody wanting me to be great, definitely pushes you to be great. That’s definitely what I need. I love hard coaching. Mom’s like that 24-7. She’s like that with football and everything. If I have a bad game, I’m not going to stop hearing about it until I get home—probably when I get into bed. That’s when it’ll stop.”