2019 had many positive revelations for the Las Vegas Raiders, none bigger, perhaps, than tight end Darren Waller. After such a strong showing last year, could Waller experience a regression?
In a season where quarterback Derek Carr lacked a reliable wide receiver corps, Waller emerged as his favorite target. The former Baltimore Raven practice squad member found a niche with the Silver and Black. While the team finished a disappointing 7-9, Waller showed he’ll be joining the upper echelon of NFL tight ends, this is assuming he doesn’t experience a setback in 2020.
Waller Dominated Raiders Camp
Fans might think it’s a reach considering how good Waller looked last year, especially early on, though this was before defenses started to zero in on him. Sam Gordon of the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently shared some training camp observations where he points out Waller’s physical presence.
“He’s always open. Well, almost always… He picked up in training camp where he left off last season, using his fleet feet and 6-foot-6-inch, 255-pound frame to beat linebackers and defensive backs. All camp long.”
Gordon’s notes certainly show Waller is ready to pick up where he left off in 2019. However, Jim Colombo of FantasyPros pointed out that 2020 could be a different story for Waller.
“Here’s the point: Darren Waller was a target hog last year because he needed to be. This season, there’s too much love to spread around the offense, so Waller’s bound to see a smaller target share. Now, contrarians will tell you that these new players will open up more looks for Waller in other spaces, and that’s fair. I just have a hard time seeing the Raiders brass keeping their shiny new toys on the sidelines.”
Will There Be Enough To Go Around in 2020?
If Waller has a down year as far as stats, it might be more about his circumstances rather than individual effort and talent. A reloaded offense with so many new weapons will demand both, Carr and head coach Jon Gruden, spread out the offense. By having a more talented offense, Waller will probably see less targets but even so, Carr showed he loves the safety blanket the tight end provides. By the same token, it could work the other way as Colombo pointed out. The attention that say, Henry Ruggs III, will demand could open up passing lanes and more favorable matchups. It’ll be interesting to see how the Raiders decide to utilize Waller in a new-look offense.
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*Top Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images