Raiders’ Jon Gruden’s bold claim about Darren Waller’s elite NFL status
Waller stole the show for the Raiders with 12 receptions on 16 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown during the 34-24 victory in Week 2. Gruden feels it is time that he is recognized as one of the NFL’s elite tight ends alongside San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle and Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce:
“Darren’s a great player, our job is to try and get him the ball,” Gruden said, via the San Jose Mercury News on the Raiders’ emerging star. “I’d take him over any tight end. I know Kittle and Kelce are as good as they get, but Waller is right up there with them. This is his second year playing the position. It’s astonishing what this man can do.”
Although this may be quite a bold claim from Gruden, it is easy to see why he is so confident in making it. Waller was signed off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad in 2018 before bursting onto the scene with a breakout 2019 campaign that saw him register 90 catches for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns. He is now emerging into a household name with the Raiders thanks to his complete skill set as both an aggressive blocker and viable pass-catcher.
Waller’s versatility has made him a go-to option in the passing game for quarterback Derek Carr thanks to his ability to line up anywhere on the field. Since his size and athleticism make him a matchup nightmare for most defenders, it will be interesting to see just how many teams are able to contain him as the Raiders prepare to face the New England Patriots in Week 3.