The Las Vegas Raiders suffered another late-season collapse to the Miami Dolphins in Week 16 and are now officially eliminated from playoff contention after losing five out of their last six games.
One of the few silver linings to come from their abysmal finish to the year has been the stellar performance of tight end Darren Waller.
Waller was already coming off a breakout 2019 campaign that saw him register over 1,000 yards receiving. He managed to reach this milestone once again with five catches for 112 yards during the 26-25 loss to the Dolphins.
With it, Waller firmly etched himself into the Raiders’ history books as just the second tight end in franchise history to have two 1,000 receiving yard seasons. He also broke the mark for the most receptions by a tight end in a single season.
Waller is admittedly happy with his major accomplishment and credits the entire offense for helping him achieve it, per Levi Edwards of the team’s official website:
“It’s definitely cool, it means a lot to break a record — I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like that before — I appreciate everything that goes into that,” Waller said following the game. “The quarterback throwing it, the time he needs to throw it from the offensive line. The receivers running their routes and clearing out areas for me to make a play. So, there’s a lot of people that goes into that.”
Raiders head Coach Jon Gruden shared plenty of praise for Waller and the role he has taken on in the offense:
“He’s a great player and he’s played such a major role in so many different positions,” Coach Jon Gruden told reporters after the game, “he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen play football.”
Waller has certainly come a long way since he caught Gruden’s eye as a member of the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad prior to the 2018 campaign. He now serves as one of the focal points of an inconsistent offense that has relied on him as a stabilizing factor throughout the last two seasons.
Despite the Raiders’ woes to end the second half of the 2020 NFL season, Waller managed to kick things up a notch with 537 yards over the past past four games. This is the second-most by any tight end since the 1970 merger after Jimmy Graham’s registered 548 yards in 2013.
While this season has come with its fair share of heartbreak, fans can take solace in the fact that they were able to watch Waller’s emergence into one of the NFL’s premier tight ends.