According to ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez: “Raiders TE Darren Waller is OUT against Kansas City. LB Denzel Perryman could be a game-time decision.”
The talented tight end was held to four receptions for 24 yards off seven targets in the initial meeting between the two franchises, but Waller is always a dangerous threat in the passing game to worry about.
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Offensive Struggles for Las Vegas
This recent Waller knee injury couldn’t come at a worse time for the Raiders as their offense has struggled in four out of the past five games.
Aside from a 36-33 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Las Vegas has scored less than 20 points in each outing of their recent 1-4 skid. They averaged 14.5 points per game over those four losses and a major part of that has been due to crucial absences.
It all started with offensive head coach Jon Gruden, who offered his resignation after an email scandal. Then star wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was released after his involvement in a serious legal incident.
Waller also missed Week 13, and different Raiders have been banged up on both sides of the football. Recently, running back Kenyan Drake hit the injured reserve with a season-ending ankle injury.
Outside of Josh Jacobs, quarterback Derek Carr’s best remaining weapons are Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, DeSean Jackson and Foster Moreau.
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Chiefs Defense Posed for Repeat Performance
From Kansas City’s perspective, this matches up perfectly with the Chiefs’ defensive hot streak. Over the past five games, the Chiefs are undefeated with an extremely low average of 11.2 points allowed per game.
These numbers aren’t just good, they’re elite.
Included in that run was a 41-14 beatdown of the Raiders in Las Vegas and one major reason for the defensive resurgence has been safety Juan Thornhill, who replaced a player in Daniel Sorensen that was getting picked on early in the season.
The former second-round pick commented on the turnaround during his December 10 press conference: “I really don’t feel like there’s been a lot that’s changed. It’s just believing in the guy next to you, fixing those small mistakes that we were having early in the season. There were times we would blow coverages, give up easy touchdowns or miss a lot of tackles that led to a big run. Once we eliminated those small things, I feel like guys had more fun, believing in each other and that’s what caused us to turn it around.”
Being that safeties often match up with tight ends in coverage, Thornhill’s day should get easier with Waller out of the lineup. Even with him on the field, the Chiefs youngster had one of his best performances against the Raiders in Week 10 with an 84.1 grade from Pro Football Focus.
He explained why he enjoys playing against the AFC West rival, stating: “It’s a divisional opponent, so it’s always going to be a lot of fun when you play against someone like that. With the history of the Raiders, it means they’re intense, so guys like to play against the Raiders, get super excited to go out there and play. I’m not doing anything extra, I’m just doing my job, doing what I’m supposed to do, and the ball just seems to find me when we play against the Raiders so hopefully, I can make some plays this week and have some fun.”