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With Crockett Gillmore out, Ravens tight end Darren Waller knows he is needed

Ravens tight end Darren Waller celebrates his touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter in Baltimore.
Ravens tight end Darren Waller celebrates his touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the third quarter in Baltimore. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

Darren Waller was ecstatic to provide the Ravens with their first touchdown en route to a 28-7 victory against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

But as thrilling as scoring was, the tight end knows he must do more. With Crockett Gillmore sidelined by a pulled hamstring, Waller and starter Dennis Pitta are the only healthy tight ends on the roster.

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Gillmore caught 33 passes for 412 yards and four touchdowns last season while Pitta was recovering from a fractured hip. Although Waller isn't expected to match Gillmore's numbers, there's a standard the converted wide receiver is aiming to meet.

"When people go down, there can't be a tight end drop-off because we're a big part of the offense and always will be numbers-wise," he said. "But when it comes to blocking and running routes, it's really important. I just feel like there's never a chance for me to relax and say that I've got this.

"There's still so much for me to learn, and if I want to continue to be on this team and keep going forward and keep producing, I have to be doing things. I can't be, 'OK, he's new, he's raw, he has to grow.' I have to be able to do things right now."

With a team-leading 46 catches and 375 yards, Pitta has asserted himself as Joe Flacco's first target. But the quarterback noted that Waller has the tools to develop into a reliable option.

"Darren's a big guy that runs well, has great hands," Flacco said. "He's a real talented guy. So I think getting him involved and showing himself that he can do, too, yeah, he's another guy that once he gets out there and gets more playing experience, he'll start to really understand things.

"I think he's got a great guy to watch in Dennis in terms of running routes and stuff like that. Like I said, he's really talented right now, but he just gets out there and runs around sometimes, and to get him the ball in a couple situations would definitely get him to feel the type of game that he needs to play a little bit more, and today was a big step in that [direction]."

Waller made two catches for 14 yards, but he hopes that Thursday night's performance can set the table for more in the future.

"I feel like that going forward," he said. "But I'm definitely content with my role right now. I'm involved, they got me out there with the guys and playing. I'm thankful for that. I feel like down the road, if I keep improving on what I've done so far, there will be opportunities for me."

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