Led by Darren Waller, the Raiders have one of the best complete tight end cores in the NFL. Waller is a consensus top-three tight end. He’s followed by very solid backups in Foster Moreau and Derek Carrier. Some interesting names, including Alex Ellis, Matt Bushman and Nick Bowers round out the group. Lets take a deeper look at each of these players, and assess what they bring to the Raiders’ offense.
There’s not much to say about Darren Waller that you don’t already know: he’s an elite tight end. We’ve become accustomed to witnessing Waller help carry the Raiders offense. Waller has emerged into one of the best tight ends in the league, and has become Derek Carr’s favorite target by a wide margin over the last two years. Waller should have no trouble recreating that success in 2021.
After drafting Foster Moreau in 2019, he has been everything the Raiders’ have wanted him to be and more. Foster has been a terrific run and pass-blocker during his time with the Raiders. Those efforts were appreciated last year when the offensive line dealt with injury after injury. He has also become a secret weapon for Derek Carr. With all the other weapons the Raiders have on offense, when Moreau is on the field he’s often the last target a defense will pay attention to. He plays especially well in two tight-end sets, because the defense focuses more on Darren Waller. Moreau often finds himself in open space in these situations, and he’s a punishing runner after the catch. Foster is much more important to the offense than many realize.
Carrier has been a great under-the-radar signing for Vegas. When Moreau has been out with injuries, Carrier has really stepped into his own. With both tight ends healthy last year though, Derek didn’t see much action. He only had 7 offensive snaps in 2020, although he did log 365 on special teams. Carrier is entering his fourth consecutive year with the Raiders, and he should serve as an excellent depth piece once again.
It’s unusual for a team to carry five or six tight ends, meaning Ellis will be fighting for a roster spot during training camp. Ellis is no stranger to this situation. He signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2016, and has been fighting for roster spots each year since. He’s had just six offensive snaps in the last two years, so he’ll have his work cut out for him. His strength lies in his blocking, and he’s good as a run and pass-blocker. He can catch the ball as well, but since the Raiders already have pass catching options at this position, if he wants to make the team this year, he’s gonna have to earn it with his blocking abilities.
Las Vegas signed Matt Bushmann as a UDFA this offseason, and he’s a player raider nation must have it’s eyes on during camp. Matt was excellent at BYU, totaling 1,719 yards with 9 touchdowns on a 125 receptions. He made 27 starts, but suffered an Achilles injury before his senior year. Before the injury, Bushmann was one of the best tight ends in the country. However, that Achilles injury caused his draft stock to plummet, which allowed the Raiders to sign him after the draft. Bushmann has a ton of potential, and I would not be surprised at all if he made the team out of camp this year.
Rounding out this unit, we have Nick Bowers. Like Bushmann, Bowers was also a UDFA this summer. Bowers played all 4 years at Penn State, in which he had 17 catches for 279 yards and 5 touchdowns. Most of that came in his senior year, in which he earned a spot in the PFF Big Ten team of the weak honor, and was ranked a top-25 tight end in the country by ESPN. Bowers had an impressive senior year, and he’ll need that to carry over into training camp if he wants to make the team this year.
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