Raiders training camp battles: Questions at tight end behind Darren Waller


Editor’s note: We’ll take a look at several Raiders training camp battles leading up to the first full-squad practice on Saturday, and then we’ll update their progress throughout the preseason. We continue with the tight ends.

Raiders head coach and offensive mastermind Jon Gruden has some fun things planned for Darren Waller. The tall, athletic receiving tight end will move around the formation in search of favorable matchups.

At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds with a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, Waller is a tough matchup for anyone. He will be heavily involved in the passing game, and has worked hard to not be a liability when asked to block.

Those blocking duties primarily will be assigned to others. Lee Smith considered himself another lineman and was an excellent blocker, but his offseason release means someone else will have to fill that role.

Several candidates will vie for that job and maybe one other in a competitive tight end group. It’s a bunched pack heading into training camp, difficult to predict which guys besides Waller will make it.

Count Foster Moreau as a frontrunner. Position coach Frank Smith vouched hard for him this offseason, and fourth-round picks almost always get a few years to prove their worth. Derek Carrier returns with two years left on his contract, but none of it is guaranteed. Veteran Luke Willson is in the mix, alongside 2018 practice squad staple Paul Butler and veteran Erik Swoope.

It’s hard to count anybody out right now in what looks like a relatively even race. If Waller’s a lock and Moreau’s virtually the same, that puts four guys in the running for one, maybe two gigs.

Competition there should be fierce, played out in camp and preseason games. Special teams performance is key in this battle, as is performance as a true in-line tight end. Waller insurance would also be nice, though his unique skill set is tough to replicate.

[RELATED: Raiders have several combinations they can use at safety]

Finding a proper mix of tight ends is important in several areas, and a good crop on the 53-man roster adds further dimensions to what Gruden can do offensively.

Early edge: Waller is a lock; Moreau and Carrier positioned for remaining spots

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