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Graney: Foster Moreau more than backup to Darren Waller

Foster Moreau was a fourth-round draft pick of the Raiders out of Louisiana State in 2019. He showed up to rookie minicamp as you’d expect — all excited and energetic and pumped to play whatever role the team desired.

Which the tight end immediately discovered meant this: Go knock heads.

“The first words (head coach) Jon Gruden ever said to me were, ‘You’re going be our blocking horse, our pass-blocking, go-get-em tight end,’” Moreau said. “That’s what was expected.”

To line up opposite the Von Millers, the Bradley Chubbs, the T.J. Watts of the NFL.

To take on the league’s best pass rushers and make certain they didn’t get free runs at quarterback Derek Carr. To be the guy that helped protect the guy.

“They have dedicated a lot of time and work and effort into their craft,” Moreau said of those heralded edge players.

Sort of like, well, him.

A green beret?

He is the COO to the CEO. Moreau is second on a depth chart where the tight end ahead of him happens to be one of the world’s best. Darren Waller is that good.

Which makes this all the more impressive: Offensive coordinator Greg Olson referred to Moreau last week as perhaps the scheme’s most important player.

His reasoning: Moreau is tremendous in the run game, tremendous as a pass blocker and an ever-improving receiver. He keeps the group together. Does everything well.

Olson: “(Gruden) jokes that he’s our green beret. He’s our unsung hero.”

Moreau: “They’re lying. I promise you. Those guys … they’ve believed in me since Day 1 and given me all the tools to be successful. It obviously means a lot, but I know they come up and — it’s not really roasting me, but it is razzing me.”

And he’s appreciative. For them, his teammates, his health. Razz away.

Moreau might have initially been viewed as just a blocker, but he led all NFL rookies with five touchdown catches before he was lost for the season with a knee injury against Tennessee in December of 2019.

It wasn’t the easiest of roads back, the pandemic creating a difficult environment for Moreau by which to navigate such a recovery.

He played all 16 games last season but was limited to seven catches for 140 yards. More than anything, having tight end Jason Witten as a teammate proved a blessing.

It’s not the worst thing to have a future Hall of Famer taking snaps as you return from serious injury.

“It took a lot of stress off my recovery process and eased the minds of everyone in the building,” Moreau said. “To know we had a veteran who could lead us on and off the field.”

Moreau took the part about developing into a receiving tight end as a challenge in 2019. Jared Cook had been a Pro Bowler for the Raiders the previous season before departing for New Orleans. Gruden and his staff also liked the upside of that guy named Waller.

Running mates

So it goes that Moreau has out-performed what was his base platform as a blocker. He has mastered the details of technique and footwork and getting off the ball. Now he is catching critical touchdown passes from Carr in Week 2 wins at Pittsburgh.

So when opponents key on Waller …

Moreau said they have learned from and grown with each other, that he wishes everyone could share a position room with the CEO, that Waller is incredibly well thought of and humble.

“Darren is such a great dude,” Moreau said. “He thinks the best of every person. He’s so sincere and honest and grateful for the opportunities he has received.

“I couldn’t have a better running mate.”

A generational talent and an unsung hero green beret.

That’s some serious juice at tight end.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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