Something we learned following the departure of Rob Gronkowski is that the New England Patriots desperately needed quality tight ends to make their offense go.
They acquired said quality tight ends last offseason, and Josh McDaniels did far less than he should have with them.
Now, he’s off to Las Vegas, where he will be head coach. And his handling of the tight end position this season is almost a little comical if this report from NFL reporter Jordan Schultz is to be believed.
“I’m told Josh McDaniels laid out an extensive/aggressive offensive system that he believes Derek Carr can execute — focused on continued use of play-action and much more two TE sets w/both Darren Waller and Foster Moreau,” Schultz tweeted. “Would be surprised if McDaniels isn’t Raiders next HC.”
Now, Schultz isn’t exactly Ian Rapoport in terms of NFL reporting, but there’s reason to believe that McDaniels in the interview process would have had to outline some sort of vision for Waller, who is one of the best tight ends in the league.
Still, the Raiders should have a healthy dose of trepidation around McDaniels with respect to tight end usage. Obviously, using more two tight-end sets make plenty of sense. Moreau getting freed up because teams are keying in on Waller is Day 1 offensive gameplanning.
But here’s the kicker, the Patriots this season were 27th in two-tight end set usage after spending an exorbitant amount of money last offseason to land Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Henry had some real nice moments and became an effective red zone target for Mac Jones, while Smith basically was relegated to run-blocking after his best season as a pass-catcher in Tennessee. Smith played fewer than 40% of offensive snaps in four games this season. That is wild misuse of an asset, especially one who led all players at his position in yards after the catch.
It was baffling start to finish, and McDaniels got Smith maligned basically for doing what he was told. So, now, we’re supposed to believe that McDaniels has a grand plan for Waller and Moreau? If he does, Bill Belichick must be sitting there wondering where that was this past season.
Maybe McDaniels’ plan for the Raiders’ tight ends will pan out, be it by design or the mere fact that Waller is an all-world talent. But nothing we saw over the last year should give McDaniels the benefit of just being taken at his word.