As the Ravens look to start another season on the right foot, the biggest obstacle in their way in Week 1 might be a former player of theirs.
Raiders tight end Darren Waller has quickly become one of the best and most prolific tight ends in all of football and is the focal point of Jon Gruden's offense. If the Ravens are to win the Monday Night Football opener, it'll all start with slowing down the Pro-Bowl pass catcher.
“He’s one of the top tight ends in the league right now," Chuck Clark said Monday. "He can make plays, he’s big, and he’s fast.”
Waller was an unknown commodity before his breakout 2019 season with the Raiders, and it's mostly due to three quiet years with the Ravens from 2015-18. Baltimore drafted him in the sixth round of the 2015 draft as a receiver, but he only appeared in 18 games thanks to injuries and a year-long suspension in 2017.
Even though his stay with the Ravens was short, it was plenty of time for some of his former teammates to understand the talent he possesses.
“We knew what type of matchup threat he was, for sure – definitely,” Clark said.
Aside from Waller, the Raiders have a healthy set of weapons on offense that won't be easy to stop. First-round receiver Henry Ruggs III is entering Year 2 and is always a threat to take the top off of the defense and Josh Jacobs is back for another year as the featured running back while Kenyan Drake figures to add someone red zone punch as well.
And it's all led by three-time Pro-Bowler Derek Carr at quarterback. While he's struggled to turn the Raiders into a playoff team after breaking his leg in 2016, he quietly had his best season with Gruden in 2020 and could be in for a big year.
“I just think they’re efficient in what they do," Clark said. "They’ve got a good quarterback that’s running the system, and he’s got good guys out there that can make plays, and they know where to go with the ball. He can throw the ball. His deep ball is good, so he can do that, as well. They’ve got a good system and they’re effective.”
The Ravens are historically an imposing team in Week 1. For whatever reason, they've typically dominated their season opener under John Harbaugh. But don't tell him that, because this is a different season and he isn't taking Las Vegas lightly.
“We’ve played well in those games, but this is a new game," Harbaugh said. "This is a different opponent, [and] it’s a new year. Nothing counts. You can’t look back; you have to look forward. We just have to get ourselves ready to play this game against a very good Raiders team. They have an established program. They’re very physical up front on both sides. You can see that; that’s what they want to be. They have speed. They have a veteran quarterback. They have a new defensive system. They have a very good special teams coordinator, and all those things go into play that we’re trying to take into account.”