Darren Waller was once the Las Vegas Raiders‘ best-kept secret but now everybody knows his name. He put together an elite 2019 season and might look even better in 2020. He’s clearly the team’s best receiving threat right now and should be in for a big year.
However, he could be knocked back down to earth in Week 3. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is notorious for his ability to game plan around a team’s best player. Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson acknowledged that Waller is a good player but it sounds like he’s confident in his team’s gameplan.
“He’s just a big guy who can make plays and get open. The guy is good. That’s all I can say about him. He’s good. And we got something for him this weekend,” Jackson said, via Doug Kyed.
Waller is elite but Belichick is a defensive mastermind. This could be a really tough test for Waller this week. That said, Jon Gruden knows a thing or two about offense. He’s going to want to get the ball to Waller. It’ll be interesting to see the chess match between the two veteran coaches.
Devin McCourty Likens Waller to Elite WRs
Waller wasn’t always a tight end. He played wide receiver in college and didn’t change positions until he came into the NFL. He may be the size of a tight end but he has the speed and hands of a wide receiver. Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty believes Waller is more comparable to players like Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson, according to Pro Football Talk.
“He brings every challenge you can think of,” McCourty said. “It’s covering him, it’s tackling him, it’s knowing where he is in their offense, how they might use him. They use him so many different ways, you’re not going to get a true bead on it.”
There aren’t a lot of guys who are 6’6 in the NFL who can also run a 4.4 40-yard dash. Waller is one of the few which makes him a matchup nightmare. If anybody will figure him out, it’s Belichick. If he can’t, good luck to the rest of the league.
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Henry Ruggs Being out Is a Problem
The New Orleans Saints have a strong defense put Waller picked them apart all game. However, he had the luxury of having Henry Ruggs on the field. Though the rookie wide receiver only had one catch, his ability as a deep threat can’t be ignored which helps take some focus off Waller. Unfortunately, Ruggs is out on Sunday with knee and hamstring injuries.
That could negatively affect Waller because now the Patriots don’t have to worry as much about getting beat deep. Gruden is a creative play-caller and he’ll figure out how to take his shots there’s no doubt this game became tougher for the Raiders after Ruggs was ruled out. It’s up to Waller and Josh Jacobs to pick up the slack.