The Baltimore Ravens travel to Las Vegas to face the Raiders this week for the season opener. When they take the field at Allegiant Stadium, there will be a very familiar face on the opposite sideline.
Former Ravens’ wide receiver/tight end Darren Waller has experienced a career, resurgence with the Raiders and is now considered one of the top tight ends in the league. Before ascending to a top player status in the league, Waller faced the Ravens in the pre-season finale after joining the Raiders in 2018. Waller caught one pass for 13 yards in the game.
The Ravens will see a much different player when they face him in the regular season the first time. He is finally meeting the potential that Baltimore saw in him when they evaluated the 6’ 6” and 255-pound playmaker. The Ravens selected Waller in the sixth round (pick 204) in the 2015 draft. Waller was named the sixth wide receiver on the roster that season before landing on injured reserve in late October.
A four-game suspension in 2016 due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy followed by a one-year suspension in 2017 for a second violation brought Waller’s time with the Ravens to an end. The Raiders signed Waller from Baltimore’s practice squad in 2018. He posted six receptions for 75 yards that season. A seven-catch, 70-yard performance got Waller off to a hot start in 2019. He finished the season with 90 receptions for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns.
The 2020 season was even better when Waller posted 107 receptions for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. He is looking to build on his previous success. It starts with Week 1 against his former team.
Ravens safety Chuck Clark knows what they are dealing with after seeing Waller’s success now, and facing him in practice in Baltimore. “Yes, we knew what type of matchup threat he was, for sure— definitely,” Clark said of their days lining up against each other with the Ravens. “He’s one of the top tight ends in the league right now. He can make plays, he’s big, and he’s fast.”
Waller’s success depends heavily upon continued targets from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr who has three Pro Bowl nominations on his resume. “They’ve got a good quarterback that’s running the system, and he’s got good guys out there that can make plays, and they know where to go with the ball. He can throw the ball. His deep ball is good, so he can do that, as well. They’ve got a good system and they’re effective,” Clark said.
It’s easy for the Waller’s former teammates to pull for him given his story. However, this week they hope Waller’s success doesn’t come at their expense.