After a year-long suspension, tight end Darren Waller was reinstated into the league last week. On Saturday, he returned to the practice field for the first time.
Waller had a strong first day, catching several passes, including a couple touchdowns. One leaping fingertips snag in the back corner of the end zone with safety Kai Nacua in coverage was particularly impressive.
Ability was never the question with Waller. The 6-foot-6 2015 sixth-round pick, who is a cross between a wide receiver and tight end, has tons of talent.
However, two violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy have put Waller behind the eight ball in terms of finding a home on the Ravens roster.
Asked about how impressed he’s been by Waller so far, Head Coach John Harbaugh said, “What, he’s been out here for one practice? We’ll see. Time will tell.”
“I love him. He’s a great guy, talented guy and all that. But, where’s he been?” Harbaugh continued. “You have to be here. You don’t just come waltzing in and all of the sudden, you’re the starting tight end. You have to prove it. You have to do some things for us. You have to make plays. I love him, but like I told him, I’m going to be the hardest guy on him of anybody. I’m going to be on him every single day, because he has a lot to prove.”
Waller caught 10 passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns in 2016. He could have had a bigger role last year had he not been suspended. Now with rookies Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, as well as veterans Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams, Baltimore’s pretty full at the position.
Waller is eligible for the practice squad, but he still has a lot of work ahead of him and not a whole lot of time.
“He is cramming for a final exam right now and there’s not a lot of sleep going on,” Tight Ends Coach Greg Roman said. “He’s doing a very good job with it.”
Former Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson, who led the team in receptions last year and is currently with the New Orleans Saints, has high expectations.
Here are other notes from Saturday’s hot practice:
- Safety Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Tim White returned to practice for individual drills. They’ll ease their way back into 11-on-11 action. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser and tight end Maxx Williams are still sidelined.
- Guard Marshal Yanda got his first taste of 11-on-11 work since coming off the physically unable to perform list, but still had very limited reps. When Yanda was out there, the Ravens bumped James Hurst to right tackle.
- Wide receiver John Brown continued to light it up with three big plays. One was a beautiful deep diving catch against tight coverage from Marlon Humphrey. Then he had a nice back-shoulder grab down the sideline. Last was a long touchdown between Humphrey and safety Eric Weddle.
- Wide receiver Breshad Perriman made a nice extended catch along the sideline as he carried some momentum over from Thursday’s game.
- Safety Kai Nacua notched two interceptions. One came when rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson felt pressure from linebacker Kenny Young to his left and threw off-target. Nacua’s second pick was when a deep pass went off DeVier Posey’s facemask.
- Young grabbed an interception when defensive end Zach Sieler deflected a pass. The seventh-round pick out of Ferris State is starting to show up more, as he also had a sack in Thursday night’s game.
- Stanley Jean-Baptiste ended practice with one of the best interceptions a cornerback could make, leaping high over rookie wide receiver Jordan Lasley to pluck an interception on a deep pass along the sideline. The Ravens have a ton of cornerback depth, so it will be tough for Jean-Baptiste to crack the 53-man roster, but he could make many other teams.