This past Friday, Raiders tight end Darren Waller had to leave practice with a shoulder injury.
Thankfully for Waller and the Raiders, the injury doesn’t appear to be serious. According to the team, the early diagnosis was an "AC joint sprain," reported Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and Waller could be back on the field soon, even before the first exhibition game August 10 vs. the Rams.
That’s good news for the Raiders, because Waller so far in training camp has been one of the team’s stars.
One recent report said Waller has been "unguardable."
There were indications even before training camp that Waller might be on the verge of a breakout season. He reportedly had a terrific performance in spring workouts.
Waller is a former wide receiver at Georgia Tech who played four games for Oakland in 2018 after playing two seasons for the Baltimore Ravens (2015, 2016), where he made the transition to tight end in 2016.
As a backup to Jared Cook, he caught six passes in 2018 for 75 yards. Now, Waller, who is 6-foot-6, 255 pounds and runs a swift 4.5-second 40-yard dash, is seen as a matchup problem for defensive backs, too fast for safeties and too big for cornerbacks.
Since training camp opened, Waller has been a standout in scrimmages and drills, making big catches even against tough coverage.
"I think Waller will be a top guy in this league at the tight end position," said Daryl Worley, a candidate to start at one cornerback spot.
Said head coach Jon Gruden: "Darren Waller’s been really good. Really, really good."
Though Friday’s shoulder injury may put Waller on the sidelines for a bit, it won’t change the fact the Raiders believe he could be an underrated and overlooked part of their offense going in 2019.