The NFL is keeping teams from practicing at facilities right now due to the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped Las Vegas Raiders players from hitting the practice field. Recently, quarterback Derek Carr revealed a video of him practicing with several of his offensive teammates. Among them was star tight end Darren Waller.
Right now, the Raiders are limited to two-hour virtual meetings four days a week. However, players have been putting in a lot of work on their own time.
”I feel like that is a characteristic of champions,” Waller said, per Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “You know, champions don’t need someone to set their schedule for them or tell them where they need to be or tell them to put in a certain level of effort. That’s ingrained in them. It’s part of who they are. … That’s what we’re trying to get across and stress.”
The Raiders are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history but have fallen on hard times since they went to the Super Bowl in 2002. Head coach Jon Gruden has made it a point to bring in players who are passionate about football and that’s paying off during times like this.
Waller Named Top-5 Tight End
There was a time when Waller was more concerned about getting high than he was about playing football. He’s completely changed and is showing his passion for the game to his teammates. He went from being a practice squad player in 2018 to one of the most dynamic players in the NFL in 2019.
His meteoric rise led to Bucky Brooks of NFL.com to list Waller as the fifth-best tight end in all of football.
The former college wide receiver is nearly impossible to defend with a linebacker or defensive back thanks to his size (6-foot-6, 255 pounds), speed (4.46 40), athleticism (37-inch vertical) and polished set of route-running skills. With the Raiders deploying him out wide and utilizing him as a super-sized wide receiver, the fifth-year pro has quickly become one of the most dangerous playmakers at the position.
There’s an argument to be made that he might even be top-three in the NFL, but he should have to prove that he can be consistent from year to year before he’s listed so high. There’s no reason to believe that Waller won’t be even better in 2020. As a receiving tight end, he’s the total package. He’s fast, has great hands and is durable. If he takes another leap in 2020, there will be an argument to be made that he’s the best tight end in all of football.
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Waller Is No Longer a Secret Weapon
One thing working against Waller in 2020 is that he’s no longer an underdog. While Gruden kept hinting that he was in for a big year last offseason, nobody could’ve foreseen the kind of impact he would make. Teams won’t make that mistake again this upcoming season.
Until we see what the Raiders have in Henry Ruggs, Waller is without a doubt the team’s most dangerous receiver. He’s going to get double-teamed early and often. That’s why adding Ruggs might have been the best move in the draft. If teams double Waller, the speedy wide receiver could make them pay over the top.
Waller won’t have the benefit of being a secret weapon anymore, but the Raiders have added enough to the offense to make it impossible for defenses to solely focus on stopping him. He should be a lock to make his first Pro Bowl this season.