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Darren Waller Hopes End-Zone Trip Is A Sign Of What's To Come


The last few months have been an interesting time for Darren Waller.

He changed positions, moving from wide receiver to tight end. He then served a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He returned to the lineup last month in a special-teams role, but injuries to Maxx Williams, Benjamin Watson and Crockett Gillmore created an opening at tight end.

The Ravens put Waller into the starting lineup, and he responded by catching the first touchdown of his career last week against the Cleveland Browns.

"I'm starting to feel comfortable now," Waller said after the 28-7 victory over Cleveland. "I'm trying to make sure there's no drop-off at tight end because the team deserves every position to be playing at a high level."

Waller's snaps have increased the last two weeks since Gillmore went down with a thigh injury, and he's responded by catching four passes for 31 yards and the touchdown. The Ravens like the potential that Waller has in the passing game, and they are optimistic that he can continue to get even more action in future weeks. 

"I'm involved, I'm out there with the guys and playing, and that's what I'm thankful for first and foremost. I feel like down the road if I keep improving on what I've built so far, there will be opportunities for me," Waller said.

Waller is a matchup problem for defenses, and that's part of the reason Baltimore moved him to tight end this offseason. At 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, he's a natural red-zone threat. He also has breakaway speed, which he showed by running the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at the 2015 NFL Combine.

That combination of size and speed makes him a valuable asset for the offense.

"Darren's a big guy that runs well, has great hands. He's a really talented guy," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He's another guy that, once he gets out there and gets more playing experience, he'll start to really understand things."

Waller was clearly excited after his touchdown against Cleveland, but wasn't interested in doing too much celebrating. He's well aware that his roster spot is far from guaranteed, and he's lived on the bubble for his first two seasons in Baltimore. The competition for playing time will only get tighter once Gillmore is healthy again, and Waller admits he still has plenty of growing to do.

The touchdown was a glimpse of what he can provide on offense, but he needs to continue to make quick strides to impact the offense the way he and the Ravens hope he can.

"I just feel like there's never really a chance for me to relax and say, 'I got this,' because there's still so much for me to learn," Waller said. "And if I want to continue to be on this team going forward, and keep producing, I have to keep doing things. It can't be, 'OK, he's new, he's raw, he has to grow.' I have to be able to do things right now."

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