Will Raiders’ Darren Waller Be the Right Replacement for Jared Cook?

darren waller

Getty Oakland Raiders TE Darren Waller.

It’s mostly talked about how many players the Oakland Raiders gained in the offseason, but it’s rarely mentioned how they lost one of their best pieces. Other than center Rodney Hudson, Jared Cook was the best thing the Raider offense had going for it in 2018. He led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns and tied for the team lead in receptions. He had his best season over his ten-year career and it came at the right time considering his contract was up.

He was considered a priority free agent, but the Raiders weren’t willing to shell out the big bucks for him. This led to the New Orleans Saints swooping him up. He will now find himself on his fifth team for 2019. Cook has always been a productive tight end, but never at the level he was in 2018. A lot of this was most likely due to the fact that the Raiders had virtually no receiving weapons. Amari Cooper was checked out most of the season and then sent to Dallas halfway through. Jordy Nelson was on the downside of his career. This meant that Cook was Derek Carr’s only reliable target, so he sent the ball his way quite a bit. He was targeted 101 times over the season.

That meant that Cook was targeted more than any other player on the team. It makes sense as he was a very reliable target for Carr last year. However, the prospects for Oakland are much different in 2019. If Cook would’ve stayed with the team, there’s almost no way he would’ve gotten as many targets. While it would’ve been great if the Raiders were able to keep him, they may have the perfect guy to fill in the tight end role for this new offense.

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Will Darren Waller Be the Right Replacement for Jared Cook?

Darren Waller prepares for increased workload in 2019 | RaidersHeading into 2019 Training Camp, Darren Waller prepares for an increased workload and is joined by rookie Foster Moreau and free agent acquisition Luke Willson. Visit Raiders.com for more. Keep up-to-date on all things Raiders: Stay informed: rdrs.co/83Edui Subscribe: rdrs.co/youtube Download our app: rdrs.co/2ZqD6b Follow: Twitter.com/Raiders Like: Facebook.com/Raiders Shop at Raider Image: rdrs.co/shop Start your…2019-07-17T17:04:36.000Z

With the additions of Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Josh Jacobs, the ball is going to be spread around a lot more. It’s very unlikely that a tight end on this offense is going to 101 targets. The team invested a lot of money into these new weapons instead of giving Cook a new contract. A big reason for that is because of Darren Waller’s development.

Waller had a rough start to his career. He was suspended multiple times because he kept testing positive for drug use. According to the man himself, he’s two years clean and ready to thrive in his second year in Oakland. He’s a former receiver who converted to tight end. His skill as a receiver makes him a matchup nightmare for linebackers. The only problem is that Waller hasn’t proven to be productive in the regular season yet. Through three years (he missed a whole season due to suspension), he only has 178 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Right now, Waller is all potential. That being said, the team is really excited about him.

“Since the time he’s walked in here, he’s been one of the most impressive guys on our team,” head coach Jon Gruden said of Waller during OTAs. “He learns fast. He is fast. He’s extremely talented. I think he’s going to be one of the best-kept secrets in the league. I really believe he’s got a future if he keeps working like he is.”

Since OTAs, the tight end has still impressed and earned the number one spot on the team’s first unofficial depth chart. He doesn’t have the experience or proven production that Cook has, but he could be perfect for this offense. For one, he’s cheap, which has given the team more money to load the offense with other talents. Also, opposing defense’s will be focusing heavily on the Raiders’ other weapons. This could give Waller a lot of open looks. It may take another year or so, but don’t be surprised if he’s just as productive as Cook ever was before the 2018 season.

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