Darren Waller has tied an NFL record.
Following his seven-catch, 53-yard performance in the Oakland Raiders’ 31-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts, the 27-year-old tight end tied an NFL record for most receptions by a tight end through the first four games of the season.
Antonio Gates set the mark back in 2007 with the San Diego Chargers with 33 receptions, according to Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride.
Waller is also just one of five tight ends in NFL history to record at least 30 receptions through the first four games of an NFL season. Furthermore, Waller also tied a franchise record for most receptions by a player through the first quarter of a season, tying Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Tim Brown’s mark.
Darren Waller Has Emerged as Raiders’ Go-To Target
The 6-foot-6 tight end has emerged as Derek Carr’s favorite target in his first season as an NFL starter. The fourth-year tight end was a sixth-round draft selection in 2015 and had started just four games in his career prior to this season. Furthermore, he had recorded just 18 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns during his first three seasons in the league.
This season, Waller leads the Raiders with 33 receptions for 320 yards on 37 targets. The second-leading receiver on the team is Tyrell Williams, who pales in comparison with 17 receptions for 216 yards.
Head coach Jon Gruden is a big supporter of the young tight end and has explored using his big target in a number of different ways, including as an in-line tight end and as a slot receiver.
Gruden spoke of Waller’s versatility following their Week 2 game, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports.
“I think Waller is growing into something here,” Gruden said. “He’s a guy that we detached (on Sunday against Kansas City). We lined him up in the slot, we lined him up conventionally as a tight end and he’s smart. He’s had some receiving production and obviously more and more we are going to use him.”
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson also singled out Waller’s blocking ability.
“He has improved at all levels, from receiving to route running to end blocking,” Olson said. “He’s a willing blocker, and that’s what his position coaches would tell you. That’s half the battle for a lot of these tight ends these days. He has shown that, and the strength to do so. That breeds confidence in the player. We feel like he can get better, but he’s a much better product now than when he came here.”
Josh Jacobs Also Sets Franchise Record
Not to be overdone by his fellow teammate, 21-year-old running back Josh Jacobs has also made history by setting a franchise record with 307 yards through the first four games of the season. The 307 yards are the most by a Raiders rookie running back, surpassing the mark of 272 yards set by Darren McFadden back in 2008.
Jacobs is having one sensational season. According to Pro Football Focus, he grades as the highest-rated rookie of any player drafted in the first round.
“The first-round running back put on yet another impressive show for the Raiders, carrying the ball 17 times for 79 yards at an average of 4.00 yards after contact per carry, courtesy of an incredible eight missed tackles forced. Adding to his production on the ground, Jacobs also caught both of his targets in the passing game for 29 yards, 26 yards after the catch, one first down and another forced missed tackle, capping off another excellent outing.”
The Raiders are quickly developing a talented supporting cast surrounding Carr, which should only benefit them moving forward.