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Late for Work 8/19: ESPN Ranks One Ravens Position Group No. 1, Another No. 32

081922-LFW
TE Mark Andrews

ESPN Ranks One Ravens Position Group No. 1 and Another No. 32

ESPN's Mike Clay ranked each positional group for all 32 teams and noted the best, worst and shakiest unit for each group. He also produced overall rankings.

The Ravens as a whole were ranked 10th. They were No. 1 for tight ends and also placed in the top 10 for safeties (No. 3), cornerbacks (No. 6) and offensive lines (No. 10). They were No. 11 in quarterbacks and interior defensive lines. Baltimore's worst showing was at wide receivers (No. 32) and off-ball linebackers (No. 30).

Here are the Ravens' positions Clay spotlighted:

Best: Tight ends

"This was a tough call between the Chiefs (aka Travis Kelce) and Ravens, but Mark Andrews' continued ascension into an elite player, coupled with Baltimore's improved depth (fourth-round draft selections Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely) was enough to give them the edge over soon-to-be 33-year-old Kelce & Co. Of course, even if we ignore the depth players, Andrews is a strong blocker and paced all tight ends in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets while catching a career-high 70% of his targets last season."

Shakiest: Wide receivers

"The shocking draft night trade of Marquise Brown to Arizona has left an otherwise very good Ravens roster with a serious void at wide receiver. Last year's first-round pick, Rashod Bateman, is a potential breakout player (as he'll certainly be heavily targeted), but he's a bit of an unknown after appearing in 12 games as a rookie — six with a healthy Lamar Jackson. Behind Bateman is Devin Duvernay (473 yards in 32 career games), James Proche II (22 targets in two pro seasons), 2021 fourth-round pick Tylan Wallace and a group of UDFA rookies … Baltimore is a strong bet to add a veteran receiver."

Unit to watch: Safeties

"There's a decent chance that Baltimore will lead the NFL in three-safety sets this season after the team spent the 14th overall pick of April's draft on Notre Dame standout Kyle Hamilton. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound box safety is expected to step right into a major offensive role alongside one of the league's best veteran safeties, prize offseason signing Marcus Williams. Chuck Clark, who played 94% of the defensive snaps last season, is a solid starter who is now essentially the team's No. 3 option at the position. Add in 2019 third-round pick Brandon Stephens, who played 705 snaps last season, and Baltimore is loaded with talent and solid depth. This will be a fun group to watch."

Unit to watch: Running backs

"Baltimore's RB room ranked no lower than fifth in rushing yards and 12th in scrimmage yards during Greg Roman's first two seasons calling plays (2019-20), but production plummeted in 2021 with J.K. Dobbins (ACL), Gus Edwards (ACL) and Justice Hill (Achilles) all missing the entire season. Assuming they don't suffer any setbacks, Dobbins — who averaged a ridiculous 6.0 yards per carry as a rookie in 2020 — and Edwards (career 5.2 YPC) have potential to return Roman's unit to its past glory. Baltimore has Hill, veteran Mike Davis and rookie Tyler Badie as depth."

Intensely Competitive Mark Andrews Is 'Just Different'

Andrews' numbers speak for themselves. Last year, he posted one of the greatest seasons ever for a tight end: 107 receptions, 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns. But Andrews' impact on the Ravens goes beyond the spectacular statistics.

As our Ryan Mink wrote in giving Andrews the unofficial award for the best offensive performance of the Ravens 2022 training camp, the All-Pro "practiced like he was on the roster bubble" despite coming off a monster season, bringing "intense energy and effort every day."

Press Box's Bo Smolka made a similar assessment in his in-depth profile piece on Andrews.

"As the Ravens look to return to the postseason, Andrews figures to be leading the charge, if not overtly then by example," Smolka wrote. "Many highly paid veterans opt out of OTA activities. Andrews isn't one of them. Many veterans will take a day or two off during the grueling heat of training camp. Andrews isn't one of them. He hardly ever takes a rep off, and during breaks, he often reviews plays on a device on the sideline."

Fellow tight end Nick Boyle said: "His competitive nature is so impressive to me. He's always out there wanting to compete. … If one play doesn't go right, he gets fired up, or if he makes a great play, he gets fired up. That stuff is kind of contagious."

Older brother Jack Andrews told Smolka that Mark has been intensely competitive since he was a kid. Jack recounted a story about boxing his brother in their backyard when Jack came home from college. Mark was in middle school but had sprouted to 6-foot-4.

"I remember he popped me in the face and knocked me down," Jack recalled, "and I was like, 'Well I'm not boxing him anymore.' He's in middle school and I'm in college. I come back and he's dunking in the back yard. That was the first time I realized, 'Wow, he's a big man.'

"He's just different. He definitely has a killer instinct. I think all of us are super competitive, and we all want to do really well, but Mark has this killer instinct. … He's got that badass vibe where he's ready to go at any time."

After the Ravens and Andrews reached a four-year contract extension reportedly worth $56 million last season, he said playing football has never been about the money for him. It's about being the best and earning a ring.

"The goal is to win the Super Bowl," Andrews said, "and after that, it's to win more."

Smolka's feature on Andrews also touched on his lifelong battle with Type 1 diabetes and chronicled his football journey and background in other sports.

Jets Head Coach Non-Committal on Whether Joe Flacco Will Start Against Ravens

Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh was non-committal when asked by reporters yesterday whether it'll be Zach Wilson or former Raven Joe Flacco starting at quarterback when New York hosts Baltimore in Week 1 on Sept. 11.

"It's really going to be dictated by how he feels, and when he's ready to go," Saleh said of Wilson. "We're going to make sure we do right by him in terms of making sure he's 100 percent healthy. Whenever that is, that's when he'll hit the field.

"If Zach is ready to go, he's going to be the Week 1 starter. If not, then Joe will. We're going to take it by how Zach looks, how he moves, how he feels, and what the doctors tell us."

Wilson underwent surgery on Tuesday after suffering a bone bruise and meniscus tear in his right knee.

"Zach flew back last night. He's here today," Saleh said. "He's already walking, he's in really good spirits. And he's chomping at the bit to get to rehab."

In the meantime, Flacco has taken over the first-team offense in practice. Saleh said that having a Super Bowl MVP to turn to "is comforting."

"Joe's proven throughout his time that he's a winner," Saleh said. "He's been efficient. We've got all the confidence in the world in him to get the job done."

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