The Ravens’ first seven-on-seven pass Thursday, from Lamar Jackson, was to tight end Mark Andrews. The first completion was to tight end Hayden Hurst, whom Jackson found on his prettiest pass of the day, a corner route run to perfection. The offense’s next highlight was a completion to Andrews, Jackson connecting with him through a hole in triple coverage.
These are early days in the Ravens’ offensive overhaul. Thursday marked the midway point of the team’s offseason team activities. But coach John Harbaugh, after the team’s second open practice, said he wants the offense to be “as modern and as applicable as we can,” which in today’s NFL roughly translates to “as passing-heavy as is sustainable.”
The Ravens’ wide receiver group is a mix of unproven youngsters and under-the-radar veterans. Michael Crabtree, the veteran of last season’s corps, was cut this offseason. John Brown, the Ravens’ leading receiver, signed with the Buffalo Bills. Two receivers were taken in the draft’s first three rounds, and another four who went undrafted were added. “It’s a totally different room, to be honest,” Willie Snead IV said.
The Ravens’ best hope for a consistent passing attack, then, rides not only on Jackson’s continued development but also on the tight ends, who know a static offseason would bode poorly for the offense.
“All the tight ends right now, we’re all striving to be complete guys,” said Andrews, who had 34 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie last season, all highs for a Ravens tight end. “Everyone in the room is good at different things, and we’re a pretty complete group as a whole. But I think you start rotating guys in, and it’s difficult for teams to game-plan. It’s going to be tough for teams to really key on who’s in, just because there are so many guys who can do so many different things.”
One thing Hurst couldn’t do this offseason: find the one who got away. He put out an all-points bulletin on Twitter last week for the “gorgeous tall brunette on my flight to Baltimore” whom he couldn’t catch up to. No luck. “I haven’t heard anything back,” he said Thursday.
It has otherwise been a productive five-plus months since he was held without a catch in the Ravens’ season-ending playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. In an Instagram story in February, he wrote he was "finally @ 100%"; he’d been bothered by a screw inserted in the foot he broke last preseason.
After playing last season at 245 pounds, the 6-foot-4 Hurst said he put on 20 pounds of muscle this offseason. The former first-round pick doesn’t see the added weight as a potential trigger for reinjury; the opposite, in fact. “I think the goal was to put on muscle to kind of protect” the foot, he said. He hadn’t felt as strong as he wanted to be last season.
“You know, [there were] a lot of expectations last year, and then the foot thing happened,” said Hurst, who had 13 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown in 12 games last season. “Injuries happen, you just kind of go out of sight and out of mind. It’s just kind of how it is, but I’m happy it happened, because it adds a little bit more fuel to my fire.”
Said Harbaugh: “He’s definitely a man on a mission.”
On paper last year, there were few redundancies with the three Ravens tight end returning in 2019. Nick Boyle, who signed a three-year, $18 million contract extension in March, was the best blocker of the group. Andrews was the most explosive. Hurst perhaps had the most potential, and certainly the most to overcome.
The goal this offseason for each is to be more like the other guys. Boyle hopes to catch his first career touchdown. Andrews wants to improve his blocking so badly, he enlisted his 27-year-old brother in offseason drills. Hurst could combine the best of both.
Good news: They’re already starting to sound like one another.
Said Andrews: “It’s an incredible tight end group to be around. Baltimore loves their tight ends, and I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”
Said Hurst: “I know we are a huge focal point of this offense, so it’s fun being a tight end here and playing for Baltimore. It’s very exciting.”
» Fifteen Ravens did not practice Thursday: wide receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (foot) and Miles Boykin (hamstring); running back Kenneth Dixon; offensive linemen Alex Lewis (shoulder), Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley; defensive linemen Gerald Willis and Michael Pierce; linebackers Otaro Alaka, Alvin Jones, Pernell McPhee and Matthew Judon; cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Cyrus Jones; and safety Tony Jefferson.
» Snead wore a red pinnie after undergoing an offseason procedure on a finger. He said he’s dropped 10 pounds since the end of last season; he wants to be closer to his college playing weight of 193 pounds, in hopes of playing faster.
» Harbaugh said his meeting with free-agent defensive tackle Gerald McCoy during his visit to Baltimore this week "exceeded" his expectations. "He's an A-plus guy, A-plus personality. All the things he stands for, principle-wise, what he wants to be about as a football player, fit us. ... Before he left, I said, ‘You know, you haven't been here yet, but to my mind, you're a Raven. You've always been a Raven. So let's make it official.’ So we'll see.” McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowl selection with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, previously visited the Cleveland Browns and was reportedly set to visit the Carolina Panthers on Friday.
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» Safety Earl Thomas, who made his debut at OTAs this week, has “looked really good,” Harbaugh said, praising his anticipation and ability to cover ground.