At 6 feet, 6 inches and 255 yards, Darren Waller is the type of big target the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco need when they get into the red zone.
Waller, a sixth-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft who transitioned from wide receiver to tight end, would naturally prefer to develop into a well-rounded tight end. But he also is cognizant enough to know that any role is preferable to no role at all.
"Over time, I feel like that will come," he said after Thursday's practice. "But whatever I get right now, I'm jumping all over it."
Waller's potential as a red-zone target was demonstrated in the team's 28-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns a week ago. With the offense facing third down-and-goal at Cleveland's 4-yard line, Waller juked rookie cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun in the middle of the end zone, cut left to the middle, and caught a bullet from Flacco to give the Ravens a 13-7 lead.
Waller's catch marked the fifth red-zone touchdown pass for the Ravens. Their five other red-zone scores have occurred via the rushing game.
With 6-6 Crockett Gillmore nursing a pulled hamstring, Waller is the offense's tallest receiving threat. But Waller said size isn't the only quality to being a red-zone target.
"I would say size helps, but you don't have to necessarily have size," he said. "It's about getting the ball at its highest point. It's about being able to catch in traffic because when you're in the red zone, it's usually tight windows and threading the needle. You've got to be able to catch through hands swiping and all of that. You need strong hands. I feel like size is an advantage on top of the skills that it takes."
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg confirmed that the offense could use Waller in the red zone, saying, "He is a good player – big, strong, fast, good player [and] certainly a red-zone target."
Waller said the key for him is to continue developing a chemistry with Flacco while being tutored by Mornhinweg, tight ends coach Richard Angulo, and starter Dennis Pitta.
"We've practiced," Waller said. "I just need to be where I need to be because Joe knows where people need to be to make plays. I'm getting there and receiving the advice and details from guys like Joe and Marty and Rich and Dennis. That's helping my game grow."