Asked last week how many tight ends he could manage to play at once, Ravens tight ends coach Richard Angulo joked that he'd like to have 10 on the field, with one quarterback.
That might be a bit of a stretch, but the Ravens have made the position a priority for years, and they have so far this year as well. They moved former wide receivers Darren Waller and Daniel Brown to tight end, and with wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee) out, the tight ends have taken on more of a role in the passing game.
"We like to say we want to be the best tight end group in history," second-year player Maxx Williams said. "We want to get the most where we can. We'd go out there, all of us, if we could."
When they began training camp fully healthy, they had the numbers to shoulder that load, but early injuries to Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) and Dennis Pitta (finger) have tested the unit's depth and forced into the spotlight players such as Williams, who caught 32 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown last season as a rookie.
"If anything, it puts more weight on you," Williams said. "We're all gonna come out here and we're all gonna grind, and they're gonna get back as soon as they can."
Nick Boyle will miss the first 10 games and Waller the first four because of suspension. Gillmore and Pitta should both be back for the season opener.
Meanwhile, Williams, a 2015 second-round draft pick out of Minnesota, feels more equipped to play a bigger part this season, knowing more about what it takes to play in the NFL.
He said he's more effective in several methods of preparation such as eating, hydrating and studying the playbook. And while many people group tight ends into those who are better at blocking and those who are better at pass protection, Williams said the Ravens focus on both sides.
"I mean, you could say Ben Watson's a pass-catching tight end, but he's out there every day blocking just as much as all the rest of us," Williams said. "So really, I think we all just strive to be complete tight ends, being able to block and run routes and catch the ball. Really, I'd say that's how our group is. We go out there, we're going to work for both of them, all day, every day."