The Baltimore Ravens held their first day of joint practices with the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday and tight end Mark Andrews was impressed by what he saw from his teammates on the offensive side of the ball.
According to reports from practice and Andrews himself, starting quarterback Lamar Jackson had a strong day throwing the ball.
“Lamar is slinging the rock like he didn’t have those 10 days off with COVID,” Andrews said. ”I always think he throws the ball incredible. But yes, he’s slinging the rock, man. He’s putting the ball right where it needs to be, and he’s locked in. He’s more focused than he’s ever been.”
Jackson and Andrews have had a strong rapport dating back to their rookie year in 2018. That connection was on full display Wednesday to those who were in attendance as the two hooked up early and often.
You don't want to make sweeping conclusions about one practice, but Mark Andrews' big day reflects pretty well on the Ravens' top-line LBs and safeties.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) August 18, 2021
He had one drop on a bang-bang play, but Andrews was getting wide open on a lot of catches.
Andrews has been Jackson’s most trusted target and the Ravens’ most potent weapon in the passing game over the past two seasons. Opposing teams started to roll more coverage towards the middle of the field and assign more defenders to him in coverage last year, which contributed to his slight dip in overall production from his Pro Bowl season in 2019.
He was the leading receiver of the Ravens' record-breaking offense that year and recorded 64 receptions, 852 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns — all career-highs. While he played in just one less game in 2020, his stats dropped to 58 catches for 701 yards and seven scores.
With the arrival of some new receiving weapons this offseason and the ascension of some already on the roster, the Ravens are hoping to have more threats in the passing game than opposing defenses can handle. Andrews liked what he saw from his fellow pass-catchers during the first joint practice and hopes that they will continue to divert some attention away from him in games as well when the regular season starts.
“Just the way that Lamar is throwing outside the numbers, throwing those go-balls, ‘Pro’ [Proche] is making those plays down the middle . . ” Andrews said. “To be able to have those weapons, obviously, it takes a ton of pressure off of me, there can’t be as many eyes on me. So, I’m excited about it. The more guys we have stepping up making plays, it makes my job easier.”
He was particularly impressed by second-year receiver James Proche, who has been the surprising star of training camp. According to reports from practice, the 2020 sixth-round pick that caught just one pass as a rookie had yet another strong day of practice.
TE Mark Andrews on teammate James Proche, who was the Ravens offensive standout today. "Pro's out here catching the ball like no one's business." Proche had offensive play of day with a leaping catch down far sideline. Also caught a deep pass over top in 2-minute drill.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) August 18, 2021
Practice wrapping up here. James Proche saved the day’s best play for late.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) August 18, 2021
Tyler Huntley found him on a ~50-yard TD down the middle after Proche got open (again). Lot of love from Lamar Jackson afterward.
If players like Proche, Devin Duvernay, and Sammy Watkins — as well as Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman when they get healthy — can step their collective games up, it will take some of the onus of being the primary passing target from Andrews. This will free him up to have even greater success in the final year of his rookie deal as he seeks a new contract.
“We’ve been plugging along. Obviously, there are some injuries and stuff like that, but the guys that are in there, and are going, are working extremely hard,” Andrews said. “People are flying around, making plays.