Raiders Tight End Darren Waller Is Matchup Problem
The Ravens are very familiar with Raiders Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, who began his career in Baltimore. Waller has become one of the NFL’s top tight ends, coming off a career-best season with 107 catches, 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns.
Containing Waller will be a priority for the Ravens and they may be without Smith. Smith often matches up with tight ends due to his size and athleticism. At 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, Waller presents a combination of size and speed that defenses do not see every week.
Regardless of who defends Waller, safety Chuck Clark said it will be a tough assignment. Clark remembers battling Waller in practices before the Raiders signed him off Baltimore’s practice squad in 2018.
“He can make plays, he’s big, and he’s fast,” Clark said. “We knew what type of matchup threat he was, for sure – definitely.”
Preparation for Raiders Started Months Ago
When the NFL schedule was released on May 12, the Ravens found out that the Raiders would be the opponent Week 1. For coaches and studious players like Clark, it’s never too early to prepare. Clark said he started breaking down Raiders tape months ago.
“You start looking at old film and watching stuff, and then once you get with the team, you start kind of putting things together,” Clark said. “It’s a nice process. We’ve been studying for a while. I feel everybody [did] – coaches, players, everybody. Once you get your iPad and you know who you’ve got the first couple of games, you start looking at a little film.”
But no matter how much film is studied, teams don’t reveal much during the preseason and make significant changes during the offseason. That creates more uncertainty for Week 1, but adds to the excitement.
“The biggest challenge is the unknown,” Harbaugh said. “You just don’t really know yourself until you play, and you don’t know your opponent, because you haven’t seen them on tape. It’s one thing to watch them from last year, but they’re different. The preseason doesn’t tell you much. So, you just kind of go into the game without much information. You have a lot more information Game 2, and it builds steadily throughout the season. So, the unknown is the biggest thing.”