How will Darren Waller be used by Josh McDaniels?

When thinking of Josh McDaniel’s offense, a lot of people instantly think of tight ends. After Rob Gronkowski’s dominating New England career, along with quality seasons from Aaron Hernandez, Martellus Bennett and Hunter Henry, how could you not? While that legend of McDaniel and two tight sets still exists, he’s had a bit of a reminiscence in 2022. Despite having both Henry and Jonnu Smith, the Patriots ranked 27th among all teams in terms of use of the close two final set. So even though McDaniels said he plans to use both Darren Waller and Foster Moreau, Waller is likely to get the most targets.

After two dominant seasons, Waller is well established in the NFL. One of Derek Carr’s favorite targets, he won’t run out of targets in McDaniel’s new system. However, he can take Waller’s game to a new level.

How McDaniels can add to Darren Waller’s game

With the Patriots in 2021, McDaniels used Hunter Henry on 68% of offensive shots. Where its impact was most felt, however, was in the red zone. In fact, all of his nine touchdown receptions last season came in the red zone. He was also targeted eighteen times in this area, which led the team.

It’s not breaking news that the Raiders’ red zone offense has suffered in recent years. In 2021, they ranked 27th in red zone touchdown percentage. New England, on the other hand, placed seventh.

Using Waller more in the red zone is a fairly simple exercise. There are few defenders in the league who are able to match his massive frame and fantastic athletic ability. For that reason, any one-on-one situation Waller finds himself in is a win for the Raiders. The most common play with these types of players is the goal line fade.

Many fans will recall seeing Gronkowski do similar things as a member of the Patriots under McDaniels. Most of the defenders couldn’t match him, so they just threw the ball in his general direction and let him go for it. Waller presents the same match-up difficulties for a defense.

Additionally, McDaniels has spent time with some of the most talented tight ends of all time. It’s unclear how many little things he picked up from players like Gronkowski, Bennett and Hernandez that he can now pass on to Waller and Moreau.

How Darren Waller can help McDaniels

Due to his experience as a college wide receiver, Waller exhibits a different skill set than most tight ends. Able to provide value from any lineup, Waller has the ability to create after the catch as well as any player in the league. As such, the Raiders often watched him on screen last season.

In the NFL, it’s rare to find a tight end catching bubble screens, blocking, and making field plays on the same drive, but Waller absolutely does. This ability to multi-task at a high level can really unlock McDaniel’s offense. Waller is arguably the best tight end he’s had since Gronkowski in his prime, and they can fill a similar role.

Take a step further?

Last season in New England, McDaniels didn’t have a truly dominant player to turn to when he needed a big play. In Las Vegas, he’ll have three with Waller, Davante Adamsand Hunter Renfrow.

With two seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards under his belt, the Raiders’ star tight end has already had his great escape. However, with McDaniels’ help, it’s possible the NFL has yet to see the best of Waller.

*Top photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun

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