EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Of all the players the New York Giants added in the offseason, no one has created as much excitement and expectation as tight end Darren Waller.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old Waller has opened eyes since being acquired from Las Vegas in March for a third-round draft pick. He was outstanding in the offseason and he has been a go-to guy for quarterback Daniel Jones since training camp opened in late July.
In the only preseason game the No. 1 offense played, Waller had three catches for 30 yards in a game-opening touchdown drive against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 18.
The real test comes Sunday night when the Giants open the regular season at home against the Dallas Cowboys, an NFC East rival that has won four straight against New York.
What's interesting is the Giants have always had trouble handling Dallas' tight ends in recent years with Dalton Schultz and Jason Witten.
Waller laughed on Tuesday when asked about some people expecting him to have eight receptions for 100-plus yards Sunday.
“You have a standard you set out for yourself,” Waller said. “Like, all right, my standard is however many plays come my way I have to try to make the most of those. And if it ends up being eight for some bigger plays, that’s what it is. It's just one at a time.”
Waller is just one of the playmakers the Giants added after posting a 9-7-1 record and making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. New York signed speedy wide out Parris Campbell in the offseason, they have Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins and Sterling Shepard back, and fellow tight end Daniel Bellinger is entering his second season.
Jones is also coming off a career season that earned him a new four-year, $160 million contract and star running back Saquon Barkley rushed for a career-high 1,312 yards in 2022 in his best season since his rookie year in 2018.
Waller admittedly is excited about facing the Cowboys. His father was a die-hard Giants fan who grew up in New York City. His mother was raised in Washington and rooted for the Redskins before the team changed its name to the Commanders.
While his past two seasons with the Raiders were slowed by injuries, the 6-foot-6 Waller had big seasons in 2019 and '20, combining for 197 catches for 2,341 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Cowboys had one of the NFL's top defenses last season, and Waller said the secondary is talented.
“They are a zone team early downs and then once you get third down, they are a little more man coverage,” Waller said. “They have some good safeties, they’ve got (Cowboys safety Jayron) Kearse, he’s solid, big dude, he’s got a lot of skills. I think (Cowboys safety Donovan) Wilson, I mean really all those guys, (Cowboys safety Malik) Hooker, can play and you’ll see some of those corners as well because they’ll match.”
Jones, who can also cause problems with his ability to run, said this might be the best offense the Giants have had since he was drafted in the first round in 2019.
“I feel great about our guys,” he said. “I feel like we’re in a really good spot with who we’ve got and how we can attack a defense in a lot of different ways and a lot of different skill sets and dynamic guys to get the ball to in space. I feel great about our group.”
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Tom Canavan, The Associated Press