Oct/22/15 12:22 AM Filed in: Clive Walford
Well, this is more like it. After catching two passes for a total of 5 yards in his first four games, rookie tight end Clive Walford broke free in the Raiders’ last game.
It was just one catch for 33 yards, in the loss to the Broncos before the bye week, but Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio hopes it was the tip of the iceberg.
“Yeah, no question about it,” said Del Rio, whose 2-3 team plays the Chargers (2-4) in San Diego on Sunday. “I think he’s a guy that will begin to emerge more and more. You look at some of the young players that we’ve been working hard to bring along: Mario Edwards, Neiron (Ball), Clive.
“Some of these guys that have been growing here with us, developing. We’re going to count on them to be big contributors for the remainder of the season.”
Walford broke free across the middle and then made a defender miss after the catch on the 33-yard reception against Denver.
“Felt great,” Walford said, “to actually go out and make a play for the team.”
The third-round pick from Miami looked good in offseason workouts before dealing with both a hamstring and then a knee injury in training camp.
“It was tough mentally because I wanted to be out there so bad,” Walford said. “Watching my guys play without me was kind of bothering me. But the worst thing you can do is rush back and then have another setback.”
Walford (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) is seen as a combination of both a catching and a blocking tight end, whereas the coaching staff sees Mychal Rivera and Lee Smith, respectively, as one or the other.
Walford is “a good-size guy that is a very capable blocker, who is also a guy who has the athleticism to be a threat as a route runner,” Del Rio said. “So when you combine those things, you feel like he’s got a lot of upside in terms of being a complete tight end, a guy who can do a little bit of both.”
The plan was — and is again — for Walford to stretch the defense down the middle, and further complement new receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper in what is now the league’s 15th-ranked passing attack.
“He’s a big-play guy,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “We saw it in college. In big games, he made big plays.”
Carr added that it will be harder for defenses to double-team either Crabtree or Cooper the more Walford does.
“I think that stuff will open up for those guys,” Carr said.