The Oakland Raiders have had their share of surprises this season. Of course, Antonio Brown’s departure from the team will always be the biggest surprise, but winning three out of their first five games without him falls into that category as well.
Those wins have been the product of good play from the entire roster. Players have stepped up when they needed to and proven their worth, and perhaps no player has stepped up more than tight end Darren Waller.
Waller has had his ups and downs in his career, and until joining the Raiders, there had been more downs than ups, unfortunately. Waller was suspended multiple times for violating the NFL’s banned substance abuse policy during his time with the Baltimore Ravens, leading to him being cut.
Now, however, Waller has totaled 359 receiving yards through five games, well above his previous career high and currently good for fourth-most in the NFL. If you ask head coach Jon Gruden, he believes that Waller is the best tight end NFL, also crediting his blocking ability, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic:
Gruden talked about how great Darren Waller’s blocking was Sunday. “I don’t know if there is a better tight end in football.”
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) October 8, 2019
Waller has really been able to do it all, whether it be blocking for others or making big plays himself. Despite his stellar season, last Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Waller saw season lows in receptions, targets and yards. Of course, Tyrell Williams was injured for the Bears matchup leaving almost all focus on Waller.
The Raiders recently traded for Buffalo Bills receiver Zay Jones to help strengthen their group of receivers. If Jones can help produce and Williams can return to action soon, Waller should be able to get better looks and hopefully produce as fans have come to expect.