Mark Andrews has been just about everyone's pick for Ravens breakout performer of the 2019 season. It's just one week, but it appears he's ready to deliver on the hype.
The Ravens' second-year tight end saw a team-high eight passes in the Ravens' season-opening win. He caught all eight of them for a career-high 108 yards.
It's his first time over 100 yards, and it sure won't be his last.
"It's exciting," Andrews said after the game. "For me, it's just about getting better each and every day. I'm just trying to help this team win in any way I can and make plays for our quarterback and for my team."
Andrews set the Ravens' franchise record for receiving yards last season. The third-round pick out of Oklahoma caught 34 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns.
It became clear that Andrews had a good connection with quarterback Lamar Jackson. His 68-yard touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16 played a huge role in the Ravens reaching the playoffs.
That chemistry carried over into the summer, where Andrews was clearly one of the Ravens' biggest playmakers. He's always had a good feel for route-running and getting open, but Andrews added more muscle this offseason and is playing with even more swagger this year.
He focused on his blocking to make sure other teams couldn't count on a passing play every time he's in the game. That has given Baltimore another layer of unpredictability this season.
"I just want to be an all-around tight end," Andrews said.
"He's such a natural football player. He's got a great feel for the passing game, of course, but I think he's really improved in the run blocking," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "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."
With improved blocking, Andrews can see more snaps. He was on the field for 42 percent of the snaps in Miami. Even though Nick Boyle (56 percent) and Hayden Hurst (56 percent) also had more, Andrews showed that he may be the Ravens' most-targeted pass catcher. He could be their chain-mover as well. Five of his eight catches were for first downs. Two converted on third down and one (his touchdown) came on fourth down.
His two most impressive plays were a 39-yard catch down the seam and a 21-yard grab on third-and-14. On the first, Andrews split the defenders and hauled in a perfect throw over his shoulder with his fingertips before stumbling and coming down at the 1-yard line.
Asked how bad he wanted that touchdown, Andrews said, "really bad, honestly."
"I had a couple catches on that drive and I was feeling the heat a little bit," Andrews said. "I think if I had a little more juice, I would have gotten the touchdown, not down on the 1."
On the third-and-14 catch, Andrews found a soft spot in the Dolphins defense and settled down to give Jackson a great target. After the catch, he picked up extra yardage for a 21-yard gain.
Andrews' day ended with a 1-yard touchdown from Robert Griffin III on fourth down when he sprung wide open. Future touchdowns will be tougher than that one, but Andrews showed in Week 1 that he's up to the task.
Asked whether he expects defenses to adjust to him if he keeps putting up big numbers, Andrews said he's not sure.
"I'm not really worried about yards or touchdowns or anything like that. Just trying to help this team win," Andrews said. "If I get doubled or extra attention, I know the guys on the outside and the other guys inside – receivers and tight ends – are going to make plays. That's the beauty of this offense is we have the guys to do it."