Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

Jon Gruden: Trio of tight ends ‘life blood’ of…

4 min read
Jon Gruden: Trio of tight ends 'life blood' of...

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The call came in early in the second quarter Sunday at Green Bay but Darren Waller, the Oakland Raiders tight end for whom the pass play was designed, was not in the huddle.

With receivers Hunter Renfrow, Trevor Davis and Marcell Ateman lined up trips right and running back Josh Jacobs on quarterback Derek Carr‘s left hip in the shotgun, Derek Carrier was the tight end, lined up wide left and covered in man-to-man by Packers safety Will Redmond.

Again, the play was designed for Waller. Carrier turned Carr’s throw into a 17-yard pickup on second-and-20 from the Packers’ 38-yard line.

“Derek didn’t run it in practice,” Carr said with a wide grin. “(But) he runs the little corner stop-route, we hit him for a big play, right? Those guys, (you) can just plug and play them, wherever they need to be.”

True enough, four snaps later, Carr hit rookie tight end Foster Moreau for a 10-yard touchdown that gave the Raiders a short-lived 10-7 lead. Moreau stretched the last three yards for the score with both Waller and Carrier on the field for the play.

Carr said the TD play to Moreau was preceded by a “hand signal” the Raiders had never used with all three tight ends in the game at the same time.

Yes, the Raiders ended up losing, 42-24, but their trio of tight ends served as more than Carr’s security blanket. They put on a show. And they needed to on a day in which Carr’s receivers consisted of Renfrow, a fifth-round draft pick; Davis, who only joined the Raiders on Sept. 19; Ateman, a 2018 seventh-round pick called up from the practice squad on Oct. 5 before being waived three days later and re-signed two days after that and Keelan Doss, the undrafted rookie and “Hard Knocks” hero. Let’s just they were not about to put the fear of, well, Antonio Brown into the Packers secondary.

“All three of them can do everything,” Carr continued. “Usually, you get a group of guys and, He can do this well, he does this well, and we kind of have to move them around.”

As in, TE 1 is the receiver, TE 2 is the blocker and TE 3 is a combo. But as Carr said, Waller, Moreau and Carrier play all the roles.

And that’s a good thing since Raiders coach Jon Gruden said the tight ends were the “lifeblood” of Oakland’s offense.

“Waller is not a tight end, he’s a football player,” Gruden said. “You can line him up anywhere. He lined up in multiple places. So did Moreau and Carrier. They can line up in line and they love playing physical football. They can line up and play the finesse game. They’re really smart and supportive of one another. They have no egos, they’re great guys. I couldn’t be happier with the tight ends.”

Gruden was so thrilled that he joked that their position coach, Frank Smith, deserved a raise.

Maybe he wasn’t joking. Consider: with 44 catches, the second-most in the NFL for tight ends, Waller passed Tim Brown for the most receptions through the first six games of a season in franchise history.

Waller’s 31.6 fantasy points in Green Bay were the most by any tight end in a game this season. His two TD catches against the Packers were his first two scores as a Raider and the first time in his truncated career that he had multiple touchdowns in a game.

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