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On Sunday, a third-team running back’s 55-yard rushing touchdown and his 10-yard per carry average, reminded the rest of the NFL that Tampa Bay has more weapons than a John Wick movie. In a 32-6 win over Carolina, forgotten man Ke’Shawn Vaughn proved worthy of the kind of star treatment usually reserved for Tampa’s A-listers like: Brady, Brown, Evans, Fournette, Godwin, and Gronk.
“I think he’s a lead back,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians told SI.com’s Zach Goodall.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn is GONE! 💨 #GoBucs
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) December 26, 2021
Vaughn, who prior to Sunday had only 37 carries in his two-year career, was called upon to add some pop to an offense that was without running backs Leonard Fournette and Giovanni Bernard. He handled the ball a season-high seven times and produced 70 yards in his first extended time in the NFL spotlight.
Arians wasn’t surprised. He’s of the opinion that Vaughn, despite the occasional mistake, has the talent to be an every down player: “He has great running skills, excellent jump-cut ability and he’s worked on his hands. His hands are better. He dropped [a pass vs Carolina] — it pissed him off — but he has worked on his hands hard. I think he’s a lead dog.”
Selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Vaughn needed a performance like Sunday’s to prove to himself that he could succeed at the pro level. “It was big for me. I feel like this was the opportunity I’ve kind of been waiting on,” said Vaughn, per the Tampa Bay Times. “I feel like I did great (Sunday). It’s just one step. There’s so much more left to add to my game, to correct. So it’s just a starting point.”
This weekend, not far from Broadway, Vaughn will have a chance to follow up his breakout performance with a lead role in the sequel. Tampa Bay visits the Jets on Sunday afternoon.
Follow along on Twitter: @OhioAF