Much has been made about the status, quality and depth of the Baltimore Ravens’ wide receiver position group in the aftermath of Marquise Brown trade on Day 1 of the draft. The Ravens didn’t select one with their second first-round pick or any of their other nine selections in the draft, and they have yet to sign a proven veteran free agent.
However, in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme, the tight end position is the more heavily featured and utilized of the two skill positions groups. According to Head Coach John Harbaugh, two-time Pro Bowler Mark Andrews and Co. are to be productive and will be used to offset any perceived deficiency or dearth of talent at receiver.
“I expect a lot of production from those guys,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a lot of depth. It’s going to be interesting. They’ll function as receivers, in one sense or another, a lot of times, too. So, they’re good receiving tight ends, they’re blocking. I’m excited to see them when the pads come on. They’ve looked good so far.”
George Godsey, the team’s first-year Tight Ends coach, said that playing the role of a wide receiver at times is “part of the job description” at the position, among other responsibilities in both pass and run game.
“We’re in line, we’re blocking, we’re tasked with some [defensive] linemen,” Godsey said. “So, we’re involved in the physical part of the game. And then when we’re extended or out in space, it’s our job to get open just like a receiver.”
He believes that what Harbaugh meant in his comments was that their tight ends are going to be “versatile as far as our alignments go.” Godsey said that it will include lining up in-line, detached, in the slot, and out wide.
Andrews has proven that he can do all of those things at an elite level and is already the Ravens’ de facto No. 1 wide receiver. Godsey believes that what makes him so dangerous and effective is that he has a “very diverse” route tree.
“There has been some tight ends that have a few routes that they run,” Godsey said. “Mark can run every route on the route tree, and he loves it, and he works hard at it, he studies what coverages are going in defensively.”
Both he and Andrews know that opposing defenses will be devoting even more attention to limit him coming off a First-Team All-Pro season. However, they know it comes with the territory and hopefully the return of a healthy Nick Boyle, along with the pair of rookies they added in this year’s draft, will prevent that from happening on a consistent basis.
The Ravens selected Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely only 11 picks apart and the pair of first-year tight ends have already made good early impressions on Godsey and the rest of the coaching staff.
“Those guys have been in here for as many hours as they can be – learning, and they’re good listeners,” Godsey said. “Not only with myself and the coaching staff, but also with the other guys in the room.”
He said they’ve been taking diligent notes and leaning on each other as they both make the transition from successful college players to full-fledged professionals. They’ve looked good catching the ball, according to their coaches and reports, and are learning the basics of becoming better blockers — which is vital in the Ravens’ run-heavy offense.
“It’s been impressive watching those two guys,” Godsey said. “They’ve been coached very well, to this point. And now, it’s just getting adjusted to pro ball and having the sense of urgency to get open in the passing game and get our hats on the right guys in the running game.”
Kolar was the first of the two that got selected at No. 128 overall. The former Iowa State Cyclone has unique measurables at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds with a 6-foot-9 and 1/8-inch wingspan.
“The longer you are, it’s just an enate advantage that you have reaching a defender and reaching for the ball,” Godsey said. “We’re going to try to get him in all those phases as much as we can.”
Godsey said that all the tight ends will have to have a sense of urgency to gain separation and get open, so that Jackson can get the ball out of his hands as quick as possible. Since there is only one ball to go around between all position groups, competition for snaps and consistent targets will be fierce.
“The more competition brings out the better in everybody,” Boyle said. “They’re just going to help our team.”