This year, rookies will have to earn their time

by Gary Shelton on July 26, 2021

in general

Joe Tryon will try to work his way into the rotation./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

Jameis Winston was going to be the next Ben Roethlisburger. He was big, and he could throw it, and the reports said he was a leader. But, no, he didn't turn into Ben Roethlisberger.

Kenyatta Walker was going to be the next Anthony Munoz.

Keith McCants was going to be the next Dick Butkus.

And so forth.

If you have followed the Bucs for awhile, you know the drill. The Bucs would draft a player not to be a part of the band, but to play lead guitar. They'd draft a guy, hand him a number and start talking about Canton.

Brady watches Trask throw./TIM WIRT

Booker Reese was going to be the next Lee Roy Selmon.

Roberto Aguayo was going to be Adam Vinatieri.

Gaines Adams was going to be the next Bruce Smith.

And so it goes. These guys were somebodies on draft day, but they were nobodies soon after. For a team that needed so much help, the Bucs got so little after the initial headlines. They would pile hope atop the promise, and once again, the team and the talent would go down together.

This is better. As the Bucs go through their training camp, it is unclear how much help the Bucs will get from their draft. They don't seem to be counting on much.

And that's good. Tampa Bay has a roster filled with returning champions. Every starter is back; every key backup is back.The team drafted for next year, and the year after, which is the way it should be. There is a danger to counting too much on rookies, and the fatal flaw of the Bucs' draft is that always expected too much too soon.

But not this year. No. 1 draft pick Joe Tryon may work his way into a pass-rush rotation. No. 3 Robert Hainsey will be the backup who can play all three positions. No. 4 Jaelon Darden may return kicks, and he might sneak behind a secondary somewhere along the line, but no one is counting on it. Except for that, it's special teams.

As for second-round draft pick Kyle Trask, none of us know when he'll get on the field. Oh, backups play some in today's NFL, either because of injury or the score of the game. But, remember, coach Bruce Arians has called backup Blaine Gabbert the most underrated player in the NFL.

For Trask, that means waiting. And waiting. He doesn't have to be Dan Marino. Tryon doesn't have to be Myles Garrett.

That's a good thing. Rookies should be counted on to make a play, but not a season.

Look at the comments Arians had about his charges after Sunday's practice.

On Tryon: "Joe showed up."

On Darden: "He's fine. He just dropped too many damn passes. He gets [wide] open; he's just got to catch it every time. And he's got great hands, so I think it was just a little nerves."

On K.J. britt and Grant Stuard: "Most of those guys were on the other field so I'll have to watch the tape to really grade them."

Notice how the bugles weren't sounded for anyone? This was a different draft by a different franchise with different expectations. It would be fine if any of these Bucs were to grow up in future seasons. It's just that they'll have this season to get their feet wet.

Hey, this is pro football. It isn't supposed to be easy.

At these stakes, nothing is.

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