New Giants TE Darren Waller: ‘They value our opinions here’

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Newly acquired tight end Darren Waller embraces the New York Giants’ change of scenery and approach after five seasons with the Raiders.

Most notably, Waller feels empowered in the culture coach Brian Daboll has established over those at his previous stops.

“Yeah, they value our opinions here,” Waller said Thursday after coming out on top in the Giants’ third OTA practice this spring. “As a player, I feel like a lot of places I’ve been, you’re told to do things a certain way and you do those things. But here it’s like, they ask a lot of questions. They want to know what you think, what more you want to do.

“So giving input is a really cool thing because coaches and players have to be in partnership. We’re all in this together and shouldn’t be against each other. We’re all going in the same direction.”

This is an essential part of Daboll’s approach. He was hired by the Giants and immediately asked quarterback Daniel Jones and many of the team’s point guards to send him their favorite plays. Daboll took those plays into consideration when building the playbook from last season, when New York went 9-7-1 and won a playoff game.

Waller’s year hasn’t gone so seamlessly. He comes to the Giants after five seasons with the Raiders, where he played under Jon Gruden and most recently Josh McDaniels. Neither has a reputation for being the most player-friendly coach.

Las Vegas sold Waller six months after signing him to a $51 million contract extension. He had an uneven campaign last season which was plagued with injuries. Waller had just 28 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns in nine games, his least productive season since his first year with the Raiders.

It was difficult on several fronts. Waller’s relationship with the Raiders was described as “rocky” by a source close to the tight end who spoke to ESPN earlier this offseason. In particular, there was a point of contention when Waller left during the week off to propose to Las Vegas Aces star Kelsey Plum instead of rehab and did not provide the team with an explanation about the where he was going.

It’s in the past now. The Giants offered a fresh start.

“It’s different from team to team. I’m on my third now. There are different cultures everywhere you go. There are different types of energies,” Waller said. “It’s a really light place, a really fun place, a really empowering place where you’re always yourself. And as long as you don’t put the team in danger by getting a flag or things like that, you can really let your personality show.

“That’s what I love about being here. It was just fun. reciprocate.”

The Giants have big plans for Waller. He is considered their No. 1 receiver.

It took a whole game on Thursday to recognize his presence. Waller beat cornerback Darnay Holmes off the line of scrimmage and caught a deep pass to the right sideline from Jones. It immediately illustrated the kind of impact they hope the dynamic playmaker will have on Daboll’s offense.

It was the type of big play the Giants lacked last season and were considering when trading a third-round pick to the Raiders for Waller. New York finished last in the NFL with just 28 passes over 20 yards.

The first few months have been encouraging. It’s not just on the field that the Giants have been impressed to work with Waller.

“He’s a real pro,” Daboll said. “He’s been really good to us in the boardrooms, gives good input. Good communicator. Has leadership skills. He’s a good guy to work with.”

The good vibes are reciprocal.


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