Darren Waller is one of the three elite tight ends in the NFL. He is the heart and soul of the Las Vegas Raiders passing game designed around his skill set.
After back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, Waller is already on pace for a third. The Pro Bowl tight end has a 100 yard game under his belt after Week 1 mixed with a strong performance versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now the Miami Dolphins enter the Allegiant stadium. Raider fans remember the heartbreaking loss on the face mask and awful situational football in the secondary. Waller put it all on the line catching five passes for 112 yards. The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is looking to repeat that performance on Sunday.
The Dolphins are primarily a single high safety football team. According to SIS, in the first two games of the season, 61 percent of their coverages are either cover 0, 1, or 3. They are sixth in the NFL in cover 0 or cover 1.
The Raiders added firepower on the offense for these types of situations. Xavien Howard and Bryon Jones are dangerous on the outside and will give receivers fits. That leaves a mismatch for Waller on the inside where he can get a one-on-one matchup.
Eric Rowe was the man who got the assignment of locking up Waller, and it wasn’t a great result. Rowe allowed all five receptions on Waller’s big day and was constantly beat deep. The Raiders attacked the former New England Patriot for 22 yards per catch.
Gruden's four verts designs have been money all season. Switch verticals at the bottom mixed in. Eric Rowe had problems with Waller all day. pic.twitter.com/iOxy9mt2J5— Marcus Johnson (@TheMarcJohnNFL) December 28, 2020
The question is, how do the Dolphins adjust? Jones lined up versus Waller one time in the previous bout. The Raiders were 22 personnel, but Gruden will keep their tight ends in line with Jerome Baker struggling in coverage early in the season. According to PFF, Waller played 55% of his snaps in-line.
Sunday might be a big day for the tight ends, but the Raiders elite one could steal the show. Expect the Raiders to attack this matchup often.