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The top five Tight Ends the Baltimore Ravens will face in 2016

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens will be challenged by some of the best all-around and most explosive tight ends in the league next season. Defending the middle of the field was a struggle for the Ravens during much of the 2015 season. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and new Ravens safety, Eric Weddle must elevate their play as they matchup with the imposing tight ends on the schedule.

Who are the best tight ends the Ravens will face next season?

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

One of the best players in the league, regardless of position, Gronk is a dominant player. Over 15 games last season, he notched 11 touchdowns on 72 receptions for 1,176 yards. Also a punishing blocker, he has been effectively limited by the Ravens in two regular season games. The Ravens have held him to three total receptions in the regular season but have allowed 12 receptions for 195 yards and a touchdown in two playoff contests.

2. Jordan Reed, Redskins

Reed is the prototype ‘move’ tight end, a dynamic weapon in the passing game. Last season, Reed scored 11 touchdowns with 952 yards and 87 catches in 14 regular season games. In the playoffs, Reed went off for 120 yards and a TD.  He will meet the Ravens defense for the first time in Week 5.

3. Tyler Eifert, Bengals

Eifert broke out for 13 touchdowns in 13 regular season games last season. Through four meetings with the Ravens, he has 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown, including a 4-51-1 stat line in the most recent contest.  Eifert is questionable to play in the first few games of the season after offseason ankle surgery, however, he should be healthy by the time the Ravens play their first game against the Bengals in Week 12.

4. Zach Ertz, Eagles

Ertz, an early second round pick in 2013, finished last season on a tear by averaging more than eight receptions and 112 yards per game over the final four contests. Ertz will square off against the Ravens for the first time in his career in Week 15.

5. Julius Thomas, Jaguars

Thomas is another dangerous receiving tight end. After several productive seasons with the Broncos, he accumulated five touchdowns and 455 yards over 12 games for the Jaguars last season. Although the Ravens limited him to two catches last season, his two TD - 110-yard performance against the Ravens in 2013 earns him the edge over Jason Witten and Gary Barnidge for the final spot in these rankings.