The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the third round of the NFL Draft, and it was an open question whether he'd be ready to compete with Ronald Jones for the No. 1 running back job right away. For at least the first week of the season, Vaughn will have a different role, one the Buccaneers might not have been expecting once training camp started.
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians confirmed Vaughn isn't high on the depth chart and he doesn't appear to be ready to contribute to the offense in the season opener.
"Maybe as a kick returner," Arians said in a conference call after Friday's practice when asked about Vaughn's role. "We got some guys that are capable kick returners. You know, Antoine Winfield was a heck of a punt returner in college, so he'll get a look ... Punt returner is so much more important, because they aren't going to kick those out of bounds. There few kickoffs returned anymore. That job isn't just as important."
Basically, Vaughn's role will be limited to start the year -- unless Arians is just hiding his plans for him in order not to give anything away in regards to the game plan. Vaughn did start camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which may be why Arians has been so cautious with him early. Vaughn rushed for 1,028 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior season at Vanderbilt while also catching 28 passes for 270 yards and a score.
The Buccaneers are banking on Vaughn to be a reliable pass-catching option out of the backfield. As Tom Brady has showcased with the New England Patriots, he prefers that check-down running back to dump the ball off to and make plays.
Tampa Bay added LeSean McCoy prior to camp starting, and he'll compete with Vaughn for snaps at No. 2 running back throughout the year. Dare Ogunbowale could also emerge as a pass-catching specialist in the running back rotation. Arians admitted weeks ago Jones was the clear No. 1 back.
Time is on Vaughn's side as he catches up to speed, but having a significant role in the running back rotation come Week 1 is a stretch at this stage of camp.