Many want to put all of the blame on Josh McDaniels for the Las Vegas Raiders‘ 2-7 start and there’s no doubt he deserves a large portion of it. However, he hasn’t been playing with a full deck of cards all season. The team has been dealing with injuries to some of its best players for the majority of the year.
Tight end Darren Waller was supposed to thrive in McDaniels’ offense but he only has 16 catches for 175 yards in five games this season. He’s missed the team’s last four games with a hamstring injury and will miss at least three more as he was recently placed on Injured Reserve. The Raiders gave him a three-year contract extension worth $51 million in the offseason under the idea that he’d be one of the most important players on the roster.
Despite the fact that he’s injured, the Raiders are starting to question his commitment to football, per Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“That said, sources have indicated that frustration is growing among the club regarding star tight end Darren Waller, who has been sidelined for all but eight plays over the past five games with a hamstring injury,” Bonsignore wrote.
“The sense is Waller is not demonstrating the necessary fight to get back on the field,” he added.
Not Fair for Raiders to Question Waller’s Commitment
It’s understandable that the Raiders are frustrated with Waller’s injury. He’s also frustrated. However, hamstring injuries have proven to be unpredictable and it’s difficult to return before they are fully recovered. Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen has only played two games this season due to a hamstring issue and his team has a lot more to play for right now.
Waller got paid this offseason and there’s no reason for him to play it safe but he’s not a young player at 30 years old so he can’t afford to tear his hamstring. The Raiders shouldn’t want that either considering that could have long-term ramifications on his career. Last season, Waller came back when he wasn’t fully healthy to help with the playoff charge. He didn’t even have a new contract when he did that. He wants to be on the field and is an incredibly hard worker. It’s not fair for him to be catching stray shots from fans and the media when he’s clearly hurt. It’s incredibly important for him to come back this season and prove that he can still be an elite playmaker even if the Raiders are out of the playoff race.
Does Waller Still Have a Future in Las Vegas?
Waller loves Las Vegas and wants to be with the Raiders long-term. The team clearly likes what he can potentially bring to them. The Green Bay Packers offered Las Vegas a second-round pick at the trade deadline for Waller despite his injury, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur. The fact that the Raiders decided to keep him shows that they believe he can still be a difference-maker on the offense.
If Waller wants to be in Las Vegas next season, he needs to return this year and make plays. If he doesn’t return, then it’s possible the Raiders call up the Packers again and see if they’re still willing to give up a second-round pick for him.