Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is the unquestionable leader of the offense, but is tight end Darren Waller the MVP?
Carr has improved every year under head coach Jon Gruden, but his biggest leaps have been the last two years. Not surprisingly, Waller has been his favorite go-to receiver during that span. ’83’ turned around both his life and his football career after joining the Raiders. He was a practice squad player with the Baltimore Ravens but with the Silver and Black, he’s become an elite tight end.
As we all see on the field, Waller demands the attention of opposing defenses with his size and talent. He’s even been referred to as one of the best by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Pro Football Focus recently spotlighted another of Waller’s strengths, his yards after a catch. In fact, Waller is ranked second with 239 yards, second to Travis Kelce’s 362, according to PFF.
YAC Leaders among TEs:
1. Travis Kelce – 362
2. Darren Waller – 239
3. George Kittle – 221
4. Noah Fant – 200
5. Hayden Hurst – 189 pic.twitter.com/vktxgeGn2K
— PFF (@PFF) November 12, 2020
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What Do The Numbers Mean For The Raiders?
The numbers mean one thing for the Raiders, they have a star tight end. Barring any major injuries, opposing NFL defenses will have to account for Waller for many years to come. It’s only his full second season as a starter and he already leads the team in most major receiving categories. Those categories are receptions (50), yards (394), and targets (71) in 2020.
If you take a closer, Waller is also averaging 12.5 receptions per broken tackle, with four of that variety to his name. In 2019, the tight end had eight for the whole year. Also, he’s also worked on his reliability, he only has three dropped passes. Just as he did last season, the Georgia Tech standout is crucial in moving the chains, in 2019 he had 53 first downs, and this year, he has 27.
As the Raiders prepare to make a run at the playoffs, Raider Nation will be keeping a close eye on the tight end’s numbers as they continue to steadily climb. The offense goes through Carr, but make no mistake, but Waller is the most lethal weapon on it.
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*Top Photo: Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review Journal