For the first time in his career, Darren Waller is set to play against the Baltimore Ravens, the team that drafted him in 2015. The Las Vegas Raiders poached him from their practice squad back in 2018 and he’s quickly developed into one of the best tight ends in the NFL. It was a stroke of luck that the Raiders even found out about Waller.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson noticed the tight end warming up when the two teams played in 2018 and told head coach Jon Gruden that the Raiders needed to sign him. The rest is history as Waller is now the team’s best player. A big reason the tight end never broke through with the Ravens was due to multiple suspensions stemming from his previous opioid addiction. Now, their head coach John Harbaugh has to sit and watch while Waller likely tears up his defense in Week 1.
“Yes, you know, every time I see him do something or read his name in the paper, I get mad, because he was here,” Harbaugh said of Waller, via BaltimoreRavens.com. “It’s like, ‘What happened?’ I think back on it, ‘Well, a lot of things happened.’ Now we have to play against him for the first time, and it’s a huge challenge. He and [Derek] Carr have a real rapport. Coach Gruden uses him really well. He’s just a threat [and] a danger. He’s fast. He’s big. He makes contested catches. He’s a guy that we have to stop. We know his number. We know where he’s lined up. We’ll know where he’s at at all times. Now, the challenge will be doing something about it.”
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Will Waller Continue to Have Success?
Harbaugh has every right to be annoyed when he sees Waller play. He could’ve been a massive steal for the Ravens but now he’s a massive steal for the Raiders. There’s no sign that he’s going to slow down anytime soon. In fact, Waller could be in for his best season yet.
He’s no longer a secret weapon so he’s going to have everybody’s full attention. However, there’s simply no stopping him. He’s too big for cornerbacks and too fast for linebackers. That said, the Raiders need to get more from their wide receivers. If they have multiple threats all over the field, it will be difficult to put too much focus on Waller. That would pave the way for him to have a massive year.
Harbaugh Talks Expectations for Raiders Defense
Many are already counting out the Raiders this year, in large part thanks to their defense. The group has struggled to stop anybody over the last few years. However, the team has done a lot to improve that side of the ball. Harbaugh knows that there are a lot of unknowns with the new Raiders defense but is still confident.
“Well, it’s the first game – you probably kind of expect that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a new defensive coordinator, yet they run a system that’s pretty well established. [Defensive coordinator] Gus [Bradley] is an established coordinator [and] head coach. We understand what he’s done in the past. We’re preparing for all that, but there are always going to be wrinkles. They have new players. How are they going to plug the players into the system? They did revamp the offensive line – it’s a very talented group. So, we’re just getting ready for normal first game challenges in that sense.”