The Baltimore Ravens entered this offseason with wide receiver again representing a glaring positional need. General Manager Eric DeCosta and the team’s brain trust vowed to reshape the position and group and made good on that promise, adding a trio of new wideouts to the depth chart.
With the Ravens signing Nelson Agholor and Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency, then following that up by drafting Zay Flowers in the first round, talk of receivers has unsurprisingly dominated offensive discourse in the Ravens’ circles for over a month now.
These additions infused much-needed talent into the Ravens’ receiving corps and could pay massive dividends towards the team’s quest for an improved passing attack. However, there’s been little talk of Mark Andrews recently, but it’s important we do not forget the importance of his role and presence in the Ravens’ pass-catching picture.
Andrews has been the only true, consistent mainstay in the team’s pass-catching group for the past several seasons. He’s been Lamar Jackson’s go-to target and established himself as one of the league’s premier tight ends, perhaps only behind Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce. He’s made three straight Pro Bowls and earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2021.
When talking about the prospects of an improved Ravens’ passing offense thanks to new playmakers, conversations should still start and end with Andrews — who remains the most important piece in the puzzle.
Assuming full and good health, a trio of Beckham, Flowers, and Rashod Bateman is easily the most talented and diverse wide receiver room during Jackson’s tenure. Agholor and Devin Duvernay rounding out the group only further solidifies this. Andrews, though, is still who could elevate the receiving corps as a whole to new heights.
The aforementioned wideouts all possess diverse skill sets. The common denominator between them, however, is that nobody profiles as a big-bodied, “X” type receiver who can consistently win jump balls and make contested catches. Bateman is the team’s tallest player at the position around 6-foot-1 or 6-feet flat.
Andrews, while obviously not a wide receiver in writing, possesses these traits and has made a living off making tough catches in traffic and “dunking” on opposing defenders routinely. With upgraded receiving talent around him, Andrews might find himself more open than ever in 2023. But his skill set will still remain as important in the offense as ever.
In Todd Monken’s first year as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator, we can expect the number of passing attempts to increase. The target distribution will likely not be skewed towards Andrews as it has to-date; he saw 26% of targets in 2021 and 24% in 2022. The ball should be spread around at a higher rate with more mouths to feed.
However, don’t expect Andrews to dissolve as the primary focal point in the passing game, especially in red-zone situations. And when the chips are down, it’s Andrews still who has the greatest trust from his quarterback. Despite playing with multiple backup signal-callers and a revolving cast of pass-catchers around him over the past couple seasons, Andrews has delivered time and time again.
While the burden should lighten for him this upcoming season, the success of the Ravens’ passing attack will still be heavily contingent upon the former Oklahoma Sooner.