The Ravens were in a fourth-down situation during minicamp practice earlier this month, and tight end Darren Waller had a feeling the ball might come his way.
Waller ran a post route towards the sideline and hauled in a diving over-the-shoulder catch for the first down. He hopped up and tossed the ball in the air, then had a few words with the defensive players standing a few feet from him on the sideline.
"It felt good," Waller said. "I had a lot of energy behind that catch."
The fourth-down catch was the play of the day and a sign that Waller is making progress in his bid to transition to tight end after playing wide receiver as a rookie last year.
The Ravens decided to move Waller to tight end this offseason based on his physical tools. The 6-foot-6 pass catcher is one of the biggest targets on the offense, and he is also one of the fastest players on the roster.
To make the transition, Waller added about 15 pounds this offseason to get up to 260 pounds. Now he can do a better job of battling inside against big outside linebackers or defensive ends when he's asked to block on the line.
"I've put on weight and feel like I can hang in there," Waller said. "I'm going to have to pack my lunch for sure. I'm excited about it."
Waller has his work cut out for him because the tight end group is among the tightest competitions on the roster. Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Dennis Pitta are all ahead of him on the depth chart, and Waller needs a very strong summer if he's going to earn his way onto the 53-man squad.
It's not a completely new situation for Waller, who also had a tight competition to make the team last year as a sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech.
"I look at it like last year, just in terms of the intensity of the competition and guys fighting for spots," Waller said. "There are good players who may not be here, and you have to go into with that mindset every day."
Waller may not be as polished as some of the other veterans at the position, but she showed improvement during the offseason practices. By the end of minicamp, he was a fairly popular target during 11-on-11 drills.
"There are definitely some challenges," Waller said. "I can't be making excuses. I have to hold myself accountable and try to get better at my craft as quick as possible."
As the Ravens broke for the offseason before training camp, Waller planned to head back to Georgia Tech to work with another group of NFL players. He had a full training regimen already scheduled so that he's ready to compete at the start of camp.
"I'm not going to be sitting on my butt at all because I have to come back to camp ready," Waller said. "I can't risk not coming back in shape, or coming back with an injury. Every day matters, especially with the group was have."