The Las Vegas Raiders shouldn’t be happy with how their season ended. They had a chance to make the playoffs but let that opportunity slip away with bad performances. Finishing with an 8-8 record, the Raiders missed the playoffs. However, there were many bright spots in the season, and tight end Darren Waller is one of them.
Waller has become a reliable target for Derek Carr over the past two seasons. He is confident that Las Vegas will be much better than they were last season. The star tight end just sent a warning to one of his division rivals, letting them know that he and the Raiders are right on their heels.
The Raiders were plagued by inconsistency in 2020
During the regular season, it was a mix of good and bad from the Raiders. They would play like world-beaters one day, then get dominated by an inferior team the next. That kind of inconsistent play derailed the team late in the season.
Las Vegas started last season strong, having a 6-3 record through their first nine games. They fizzled out after the excellent start, losing five of their last seven games. One of the team’s issues was penalties. The Raiders had 98 penalties in 2020, the tenth most in the NFL, per The Football Database. Mix the inconsistency and penalties, and it’s the perfect recipe for a mediocre season.
The inconsistencies were primarily on the defense side. The Raider defense was awful last season, giving up 389.9 yards a game, eighth-most in the league. They relinquished 29.9 games this year, third-most in the NFL. The team was solid offensively, averaging 383.3 yards a game, which was in the top 10 of the league. It was the play of Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, and Darren Waller who helped Las Vegas’ offense become a top 10 unit.
Waller is rising the ranks as one of the better tight ends in the league. With his size, hands, and quickness, he is a mismatch for any defender. He believes that the Raiders aren’t too far off from their division rival, saying that the gap between them and Las Vegas is closing.
Darren Waller doesn’t ‘feel like the gap is that big’ between the Raiders and Chiefs
The Raiders were an 8-8 team that didn’t make the playoffs for a fourth straight season. The Kansas City Chiefs were 14-2 and made it to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs have ruled the AFC West, winning the division the past five seasons. Darren Waller believes the gap between the team isn’t as big as many think.
“We don’t feel like the gap is that big, honestly. It’s easy to show up and play them [the Chiefs] because they are so good and so talented that you naturally want to play your best. We feel like our best is right there with theirs,” said Waller per NFL.com.
Waller might have a point. The Raiders were the only team to beat the Chiefs when they played all of their starters in 2020. In Week 5, Las Vegas’ offense exploded, scoring 40 points behind a 300-yard, three-touchdown performance by Derek Carr. The Raiders almost beat Kansas City a second time in Week 11. Waller looks at those games as evidence that they aren’t too far from the Chiefs.
“I really don’t think there’s much because the first game we won, the second game they score at the end, and if you ask people on defense, they say we can’t happen, but those are two games that we feel like we should have won,” Waller said.
The Chiefs’ offense looked far from normal during the Super Bowl blowout against the Bucs. Given how close the Raiders came to almost beating their rivals twice, they will be looking at that game film for clues. However, they should focus on one thing if they want to catch Kansas City.
Consistency is vital for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021
It was mentioned how inconsistency killed the Raiders’ season. They can’t operate inconsistently and have realistic expectations to overtake the Chiefs in the AFC West. Darren Waller realizes how Kansas City’s consistency is the difference between the two teams.
“The Chiefs do it Week 1 through Week 22…We can do it the first nine weeks fairly consistently, but at the end, it’s not the same…So we have to reach that level of consistency that they have. They have a historically great level of consistency that we haven’t reached yet,” Waller said.
The first step in being consistent is having the right players on the roster. Carr doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere, Jacobs is a stud, and Waller is an elite tight end. The offense is set, but the defense could use upgrades all around. Getting the defense situated will definitely help the offense. They won’t feel like they have to score 50 points to win.
The Las Vegas Raiders have a talented team, and Darren Waller believes that they are catching up to the Chiefs. The Raiders beat them once last season, so they know what needs to be done to win against them. However, they need to focus on being more consistent and fighting adversity before reaching Kansas City’s level.
“We just have to be a more locked-in team going through the season because there’s going to be times when you’re not feeling great, or you’re banged up and things like that, but the details can’t slide, the fundamentals can’t slide,” Waller said.