New York Giants: How will Darren Waller fit into the offense?

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The New York Giants grabbed headlines on Tuesday afternoon after executing a blockbuster trade for TE Darren Waller. Big Blue sent just a third-round pick (100th overall via Kansas City) in exchange for the Pro Bowl tight end.

Tight end wasn’t necessarily considered a need for New York entering this offseason. Daniel Bellinger showed a lot of promise during his rookie 2022 season. Nevertheless, the Giants upgrade at the position, acquiring one of the most dynamic receiving threats from the tight end position in the NFL. But how exactly might Darren Waller’s talents be utilized in the Giants’ offense?

How Darren Waller will be utilized in the Giants’ offense

Waller should be on the field for nearly every single snap

2022 was the worst season of Darren Waller’s career since becoming a full-time starter in 2019. He posted just 28 receptions for 388 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. But, as Pro Football Focus described, the Raiders were “slowly phasing [Waller] out of the offense with the new coaching staff.”

“[Waller’s] playing time to start 2022 was already lower than the majority of his 2021 performances, and it only declined from there,” per PFF.

This will undoubtedly change with the New York Giants whose starting tight end in 2022, rookie Daniel Bellinger, played in over 94% of New York’s offensive snaps (PFF). Waller will be a staple in the Giants’ offense and will be on the field as frequently as his health allows him.

Adding a deep receiving option to the offense

One aspect of the offense that Waller will help upgrade is the Giants’ deep passing game. Waller led the Raiders in deep target rate (36.2%) in 2022, despite fighting through and missing eight games with a hamstring injury (PFF).

Waller’s PFF receiving grade on deep (20+ yard) targets was an elite 99.3 as he caught seven receptions on 15 targets for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

In 2022, QB Daniel Jones’ 6.4-yard average depth of target ranked 46th out of 47 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. Big Blue barely generated any big plays downfield. Waller will allow them to open up the offense and push the ball downfield a bit more.

Daniel Jones favors tight ends

In 2022, the Giants didn’t throw the ball much to their tight end, however, this was an anomaly. Throughout his career, Daniel Jones has favored throwing the ball to tight ends, as Evan Engram received the eighth-most targets for a tight end from 2020-2021 (PFF). Many have likened Engram’s skillset to that of Waller’s, making him a compatible match for Jones.

Waller will line up at WR

Darren Waller was considered one of the top tight ends in the NFL and one of the league’s best offensive playmakers during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. What made Waller so special was his versatility and his ability to play both as a tight end and as a wide receiver.

Waller (1,476) ranked second among tight ends in receiving yards from the slot or wide alignments from 2019-2020, per Next Gen Stats. He posted at least 1,100 total receiving yards and 90 receptions in each of those two seasons, totaling 12 touchdowns across those two years.

Waller has been known to lineup from the slot or wide alignment frequently throughout his entire career:

Darren Waller receiving alignment in 2022 (per PFF):

  • Inline TE: 17.4%
  • Wide: 20%
  • Slot: 61.9%

Darren Waller receiving alignment in 2021:

  • Inline TE: 49.6%
  • Wide: 21.4%
  • Slot: 29%

Darren Waller receiving alignment in 2020:

  • Inline TE: 54.4%
  • Wide: 24.1%
  • Slot: 20.4%

Darren Waller receiving alignment in 2019:

  • Inline TE: 44.7%
  • Wide: 24.6%
  • Slot: 30.7%

Brian Daboll can utilize more 12 personnel

Additionally, Waller’s ability to lineup as a receiver will pave the way for Daniel Bellinger to see the field. This is good news for Daniel Jones, a quarterback that excels from 12 personnel packages.

Daniel Jones on early down attempts from 12 personnel (per Warren Sharp):

  • +0.30 EPA/att (#7)
  • 9.3 YPA (#4)
  • 53% success (#12)
  • 85% comp (#3) on 48 att

Daniel Jones on early down attempts from 11 personnel:

  • +0.06 EPA/att (#15)
  • 6.9 YPA (#20)
  • 46% success (#23)
  • 69% comp (#10) on 295 att

The stats indicate that Daniel Jones is far better out of 12 personnel on early downs than out of 11 personnel. The New York Giants can make use of both Daniel Bellinger and Darren Waller thanks to Waller’s versatility. Expect to see Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka utilize a lot more 12 personnel in 2023.

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