Ravens second-year tight end Mark Andrews talks about his involvement in the new look offense.
As the Ravens offense continues to evolve, Mark Andrews becomes more of a complete tight end.
He had problems run blocking in 2018, but is no longer a liability. Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s versatility created opportunities for Andrews last season, but the addition of speedy rookie receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin could take Andrews’ game to another level.
A year ago, Andrews set franchise records for receptions (34) and receiving yards (552) for a rookie tight end. And his chemistry with Jackson was clearly noticeable, especially after a 68-yard touchdown pass from Jackson in Week 16 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
In the season opener last week in Miami, Andrews caught eight passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, the first time he had gone over 100 yards.
“I think we have a long way to go. We’re not there yet. But we’ve got a lot of great stuff in, and we’re going to continue to put that in and show that week-to-week.”
That’s the good thing about this team right now. Most of the skilled players are still young and modest, far from the Antonio Brown character we’ve heard so much about lately. But Andrews is probably the best and most dependable receiver on the roster.
Regardless of where Andrews lines up, he is a mismatch for most defenders at 6 feet 4 and 256 pounds. Worse yet, opposing linebackers and safeties are at a disadvantage because they have to honor Jackson’s big-play ability as a runner, especially off the perimeter.
Andrews has been in this position before with Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield when they were teammates at Oklahoma.
“It’s huge,” Andrews said. “I think for receivers and tight ends, you don’t see it very often with a quarterback that fast. It makes our jobs much easier. There are so many open lanes over the top with linebackers biting on play-action and whatnot, so we get a lot of open looks because of his ability to run the ball and his versatility.”
Then there is the speed factor of Boykin and Brown. If those two can stay healthy and keep buzzing around in the secondary, that will open up the field for Andrews, especially in man-to-man coverage.
Clearly, that’s another advantage for the Ravens.
“He’s a guy that can really blow the top off of defenses,” Andrews said of Brown. “They have to respect it because of his speed. He’s such a fast player, so it helps the guys that are inside with crossing routes and over the middle, and opens up some lanes for the quarterback to throw. So, I’m excited to see how that turns out as the year goes along and how defenses will have to respect that and what we do with it.”
It’s understandable why this could be a big season for Andrews. He proved himself at Oklahoma, put up impressive numbers last season and has the key ingredients around him to become more effective in 2019.
The bonus for Andrews is that he worked hard to become a run blocker during the offseason, which should increase his playing time. Nick Boyle is still the Ravens’ best run-blocking tight end, but Andrews can be used in the two-tight end set or in base formation.
“Mark is an interesting guy. He’s such a natural football player,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s got a great feel for the passing game, of course, but he’s really improved in the run blocking. It’s something that he didn’t do much at Oklahoma.
“I think there was a question about how good he would be at it at this level. … He was good at it last year as a rookie. It wasn’t ever a problem for him, but he’s really worked hard at it.”
It might be a problem Sunday when the Ravens play Arizona in the home opener at M&T Bank Stadium. At some point, Andrews will have to block or chip on former Ravens standout Terrell Suggs, a starting outside linebacker for the Cardinals.
Andrews expects to hear a lot of chatter. That’s just Suggs. But just like improving his run blocking, Andrews will have to make other adjustments throughout the season. With success comes more attention, which means he’ll start getting jammed at the line of scrimmage and double teamed inside the red zone.
“For me, it’s just going to be a week-to-week thing,” said Andrews, who grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I’m just trying to get better each and every day. I’m not really worried about yards, touchdowns or anything like that. I’m just trying to help this team win. If I get doubled or anything like that or extra attention, I know the guys on the outside and other guys on the inside, receivers and tight ends, are going to make plays, and that’s the beauty of this offense.”