After more than a month of inactivity, football is approaching fast.
The Ravens’ first full-team training camp practice will be held July 25. Their first preseason game is Aug. 8 against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars. Final cuts for the 53-man active roster are due by 4 p.m. Aug. 31.
Training camp will help shape the roster before the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami. As practice nears, The Baltimore Sun will take a position-by-position look at the Ravens’ roster, including breakdowns of all 90 players. Today, the team’s tight end situation is analyzed.
One big question
How often will the Ravens use multiple-tight end personnel groupings? Last season, the Ravens used two or more tight ends on about 40% of plays, according to Sharp Football Stats, among the highest rates in the league. Mark Andrews’ success as a slot receiver could free Ravens play-callers to insert Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst more often as an in-line tight end.
One smaller question
Will the Ravens keep four tight ends on their season-opening roster for the third straight year? This year’s crop isn’t as deep as last year’s, which included Maxx Williams, and the team could likely stash Charles Scarff or Cole Herdman on the practice squad until they’re needed.
Mark Andrews: The team’s top rookie last season turned in not only the best-ever debut season by a Ravens tight end but also one of the NFL’s best in recent memory. Andrews set the franchise record for receiving yards in a season by a rookie tight end (552), more than doubling Maxx Williams’ 2015 total, and Ravens quarterbacks had a passer rating of 124.8 when targeting Andrews.
According to ESPN, his rookie-year mark of 11.0 yards per target is the second highest for a tight end since 2007 — behind only O.J. Howard’s in 2017 and ahead of those of Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz and George Kittle, among others. Given how impressive the 6-foot-5 Andrews looked at mandatory minicamp, it shouldn’t be long before he’s considered one of the NFL’s top tight ends.
Nick Boyle: The Ravens’ most used tight end of 2018 is now among the better-paid players at his position. Boyle saw over 54% of the team’s offensive snaps last season, and according to Pro Football Focus, he led all NFL tight ends in run-blocking snaps from Week 11 through the end of the regular season.
The three-year, $18 million contract extension he signed after the season underscored his value to the Ravens’ running game; he’s agile enough to handle defenders in space and, at 6-4, 270 pounds, strong enough to displace linemen.
Hayden Hurst: The Ravens’ top 2018 draft pick was disappointed enough in his rookie year that he gave it a C grade. There were glimpses of greatness in training camp, but a late-August stress fracture in Hurst’s foot required surgery. He missed four games, never appeared as explosive afterward and finished the season with 13 catches for 163 yards.
Hurst, who turns 26 in August, said he’s put on 20 pounds of muscle since the end of last season, and his 6-4, 265-pound frame should help his contributions as a blocker while he finds a role in the passing game. He had the lowest catch rate (56.5%) of the team’s four tight ends last year.
On the bubble
Cole Herdman: The undrafted free agent had 18 catches for 196 yards last season at Purdue, where he started 31 games overall. After entering 2018 with a catch in 29 consecutive games played, the 6-4, 238-pound Herdman was held without a reception three times.
Charles Scarff: The undrafted free agent started his career at Rutgers before transferring to Delaware in 2016, one season after Boyle left. The 6-5, 249-pound Scarff was named first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association last season after catching 43 passes for 498 yards and seven touchdowns.
Four Ravens rookies were placed on the Non-Football Injury list: Marquise Brown, Jaylon Ferguson, Daylon Mack and Jaylen Smith. Patrick Mekari is on the PUP list. It’s typical for players to get off the NFI list after passing their conditioning test.