Joe is locked in like a wired border collie to the Bucs’ wide receiver room. Good receivers won’t be with the team come Tuesday afternoon.
And Joe is convinced some given their walking papers on Tuesday won’t be unemployed for long. The Bucs’ receivers room is that deep. One guy many believe will be safe is second-year receiver Jaelon Darden, who has had a nice camp.
Joe asked Darden after practice yesterday if the uncertainty is weighing on him as the Bucs play their final preseason game in Indianapolis tomorrow night.
“Honestly, I’m not thinking about it,” Darden said. “I am controlling what I can control, coming out here and putting plays on tape. Coming out here and learning and executing the plays.”
Joe asked Darden if it helped him that the Bucs are just loaded at receiver, meaning that a receiver trying to make the Bucs’ final-53 cannot take a day off much less a play. Guys have no choice but to be sharp in practice.
Darden basically told Joe his mindset is to be that way all the time. But yeah, he confessed, iron sharpens iron.
“I take that approach every day,” Darden said of striving for a perfect practice each time on the field. “So that’s kind of normal to me, if that makes sense. But it made me go 10-times harder knowing the guys I am around, how great they are.”
Competition keeps Darden’s mind sharp, he said, and gives him the right “mindset.” Darden also said a year in the NFL under his belt with the same offense makes a big difference.
“One-hundred percent!” Darden said of his comfort level compared to his rookie season. Last year “there was a lot going on. I feel comfortable now.”
And Darden noted the “lot going on” was all the little things adjusting to life as an NFL receiver entails. Last year it wasn’t just the playbook that was new to Darden. It was also new how to huddle up, where to be during practice, where to position himself at the line. Those small things are now just second nature for him.
So tomorrow is a big game not just for Darden, but also for Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, Devin Thompkins, and even Jerreth Sterns. One bad route, one dropped pass, one missed assignment, one special team mistake could mean the difference between collecting an NFL paycheck with the Bucs and backing up a U-Haul to your apartment Wednesday morning.
This content was originally published here.