While much of Baltimore is currently debating which receiver the Ravens should target ahead of the NFL’s November 1st trade deadline, perhaps bringing in another tight end could be more fruitful.
In 2019, the Ravens trio of tight ends allowed the Ravens to present defenses with a bevy of different looks from heavy personnel (12, 22, 13), which forced defenses to match with base defense against the best rushing attack in NFL history. This allowed the Ravens to use Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews to push vertical against linebackers on play action passes from tight alignments, or spread the field with two vertical threat tight ends, using empty backfields. Going empty against base defense also allowed Lamar Jackson to have more space to work with, while defenses had less speed on the field to corral the electric athlete playing quarterback.
Mark Ingram spoke about the Ravens lack of identity Wednesday with Baltimore media.
Mark Ingram: "Obviously 2019 was a historic year. The 2020 Ravens are different. We're striving for excellence. The 2020 Ravens are still working on our identity."— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) October 14, 2020
In 2019, that was the Ravens tight ends. The Ravens ran 1,064 plays in 2019. Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst combined for 1,683 snaps in 2019. Don’t get it twisted, this is in no way an indictment on the ability of Mark Andrews or Nick Boyle, two of the best tight ends in the league. However, what would this Ravens offense look like without one of them?
Injury is inevitable, and the Ravens would be wise to ensure that they have a suitable replacement to make a playoff push, while looking to get the playoff win monkey off of their backs.
While J.K. Dobbins was an awesome addition, who figures to be the future of the Ravens running backs, Hurst is sorely missed. Speculating trades is often futile; the best places to look ahead of the trade deadline are on struggling teams with relatively inexpensive veterans. After five weeks, that list includes the following tight ends from around the league:
- Evan Engram (although he’s more of the glorified slot receiver type, he could kill two birds with one stone).
- Kyle Rudolph (under contract through 2023 with no guaranteed money after the 2020 season).
- Zach Ertz (Dallas Goedert appears to be the future in Philly. Eric DeCosta and Howie Roseman have a strong relationship, and Ertz has no guaranteed money after 2020).
- Darren Fells (been a red zone weapon for Houston who can stretch the field and has a massive catch radius).
- Jesse James (the lions could be sellers at the deadline, and Marvin Jones Jr. would be a fun addition to this Ravens team).
- Nick Vannett (the Broncos are decimated with injury and would be wise to collect as much draft capital as possible).
- Tyler Eifert (the Jaguars fire sale never ends).
- Jordan Reed (another glorified slot receiver. More blocking prowess than Engram, but his concussion situation and lack durability has been well documented).
- Chris Herndon (the Jets have no business not acquiring draft capital).
- Trey Burton/Jack Doyle (the emergence of Mo Allie-Cox could open the door for a trade, although the Colts are unlikely to be sellers).
While these tight ends might not bring exactly the same skillset that Hurst encompasses, they would be viable options to allow the Ravens to use the same power pistol looks that saw so much success in 2020.
The Ravens could bring in a receiver, but with Lamar Jackson largely force feeding the ball to Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews, production might simply be enhanced by spreading the targets around in a more balanced fashion, as well as making an effort to scheme open more throws for Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche.
While acquiring a tight end might not be the flashiest move in comparison with the headlines that trading for Marcus Peters brought in 2019, it would be a wise move to help the Ravens regain some of their mojo.