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The Falcons must corral Darren Waller on Sunday

Atlanta’s struggled with tight ends all year, and Waller is a huge problem.

Baltimore Ravens v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons have a tight end problem, as they have for a long time now. In 2020, only three teams have allowed more receptions to tight ends than the Falcons (57), only one team has allowed more yards to tight ends (622), and no team has allowed more touchdowns to the position (8). That’s a grim picture.

The bad news is that it’s not going to let up in Week 12. Darren Waller has arrived in Las Vegas, as he’s 14th in the league in receptions, 38th in yards and 20th in touchdowns a year after breaking out in spectacular fashion in 2019. He’s unquestionably one of the most dangerous players on the field for the Raiders, and the Falcons have to figure out a way to contain him despite struggling against the position all year.

Depending on the play, that difficult task will fall to a number of players, including Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and others, but it sounds like Raheem Morris is expecting the bulk of that responsibility to go to Foye Oluokun.

In weeks past, the Falcons have been killed by tight ends who weren’t the primary focus of the passing game. This week, Waller will unquestionably be Derek Carr’s preferred target, as he leads the team in targets and yards, doubling up on the next closest option in both of those numbers. He’s fast, big, and athletic, meaning Oluokun will have his work cut out for him.

Las Vegas doesn’t have a lot of compelling options outside of Waller—Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor are the team’s second and third-leading receivers—so shutting him down would legitimately make this a more winnable game all by itself. I’m hopeful the Falcons will get creative and give A.J. Terrell some chances against Waller if the usual crew of suspects doesn’t prove up to the task, and that we’ll finally get a week where a tight end doesn’t make beating this Falcons defense look easy.