Mark Andrews Wins Octopus of the Year Award
Among the achievements Mark Andrews claimed in 2021—setting single-season franchise records for catches (107) and receiving yards (1,361), along with earning his second Pro Bowl bid and First-Team All-Pro, the most unique may be Andrews receiving the Octopus of the Year award, courtesy of Sports Illustrated’s Mitch Goldich.
The award comes courtesy of Sports Illustrated’s Mitch Goldich. So, what is an "octopus"?
"An octopus is when the same player who scores a touchdown also scores the ensuing two-point conversion," Goldich wrote. "No, being a quarterback and throwing the ball for a TD does not count. You must be the one who secures the ball in the end zone on both plays."
Against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 last season, Andrews scored the second-ever double octopus, which earned him the 2021 Octopus of the Year award.
"Oh man, I'm super humbled to win the octopus award," Andrews told Goldich. "I didn't know it's a thing, but it's pretty cool."
Andrews now sits in a 25-way tie for third place on the all-time octopus leaderboard, behind only Randy Moss (3) and Todd Gurley (4), but he's hungry for the record.
"I'm all about the octopus," Andrews told Goldich. "Now that I know about it, and I've already had two of them, I'm going for more. I want more of 'em."
Andrews will certainly have more opportunities, as Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh demonstrated an aggressive scoring philosophy last season, going for eight two-point conversions.
Andrews did deliver a speech for receiving the octopus award, at the request of Goldich.
"I just first off want to thank God. I want to be thankful for our head coach, going for two, thankful for Lamar, thankful for my teammates having the trust in me to go out there and make the plays and score an octopus," Andrews said to Goldich. "And obviously two octopi in that one game. I'm just extremely thankful. Thankful for you, Mitch, for awarding me this. And my parents and everybody else, man. This is awesome."
Lamar Jackson: Fantasy Football Star
This offseason, the Ravens have rebuilt their offense with Lamar Jackson in mind, and fantasy football lovers should be celebrating.
In 2019, Jackson posted the second-best season by a quarterback in fantasy history (415.68 points), trailing only Patrick Mahomes' 2018 season (417.1 points) by fewer than two points. Jackson was winning football games and fantasy owners' seasons, and The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec believes the Ravens' offseason moves point toward a return, starting with the offensive line.
"In 2019, the Ravens had one of the top offensive lines in football, which included three Pro Bowl selections in Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr. and guard Marshal Yanda. Jackson was sacked just 23 times in 15 games," Zrebiec wrote. "Last season, Jackson was sacked 38 times in 12 games. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said that any time he has asked Jackson about what he needs, the quarterback usually mentions improving the offensive line. On paper, the Ravens have done that with two new starters in Moses and Linderbaum joining guard Kevin Zeitler and Stanley, who the team believes will be ready for Week 1 after he missed all but one game last season."
A big part of Jackson's historic fantasy season was the defense not being able to zero in on Jackson as the Ravens' greatest running threat. Zrebiec sees the healthy return of two ball carriers helping to take the heat off the signal caller.
"The return of Dobbins and Edwards should open things up for Jackson, and Mike Davis and Tyler Badie should diversify the backfield," Zrebiec wrote.
The final element to Jackson's resurgence looks to be the tight end unit, after the Ravens opted to bring in more talent at the position rather than a wide receiver.
"Instead [of signing or drafting a wide receiver,] the Ravens doubled down at tight end, drafting Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely, accomplished pass catchers in college," Zrebiec wrote.
"The lack of moves at receiver appeared to be a nod toward 2019, when three of the Ravens' top five pass catchers were tight ends as Jackson worked the middle of the field and spread the ball around," Zrebiec wrote. "However, the Ravens appear to have gotten better up front, in the backfield and at tight end. Those elements have brought out the best in Jackson before."
Biggest Takeaways From Warren Sharp's 2022 Football Preview
In anticipation of the 2022 season, NBC Sports' Warren Sharp released a 14-page chapter recapping the Ravens' 2021 season and previewing the 2022 season. Here are some of the highlights.
When Jackson wins, the Ravens win.
"When Jackson played the entire game, the Ravens went 8-4, with two of the four losses being either in overtime (Week 1 vs. the Raiders) or seconds before overtime, trying to avoid overtime due to a depleted roster on a failed two-point conversion," Sharp wrote. "When Jackson played the entire game, the Ravens were the No. 1 team in the AFC in… and that was DESPITE all of the insane injuries. But when Jackson was injured, the Ravens went 1-5."
Why to bet the over on the Ravens winning 9.5 games.
"The 2021 Ravens had the highest adjusted games lost in the Football Outsiders database. Leading the league with the most adjusted games lost on offense and second in games lost on defense, the Ravens are almost a guarantee to have better injury luck. John Harbaugh is one of the league's top coaches and has finished with a winning record in four consecutive seasons until last year. With Lamar Jackson under center, Harbaugh has prioritized getting the lead early and dominating on the ground with the lead. In the previous two seasons, the Ravens had a first quarter point differential of +97 and +74 but fell to -3 last year, partly due to injuries. The improved secondary is slated to play the second easiest schedule of passing offenses, which will allow the Ravens to have success if able to jump out to early leads as before."
Third down offense needs to improve.
"What actually did have dire consequences for the Ravens was their third down offense," Sharp wrote. "In the first half of games, the Ravens converted just 37 of 110 third downs. That's 33.6%. And it ranked 31st in the NFL, ahead of only the lowly Detroit Lions. This was diametrically opposite to the Ravens of prior years. Look at this comparison:
2020 first half third downs: 53.2% conversions (58 of 109), third in NFL (7.0 yards-to-go on avg)
2021 first half third downs: 33.6% conversions (37 of 110), 31st in NFL (7.2 yards-to-go on avg)
Mark Andrews' production may cool a bit.
"We should see some recoil with Andrews for 2022 as he took advantage of a few elements last season," Sharp wrote. "The Ravens fell apart, forced to have their highest passing rate (56%) since Lamar Jackson took over. Despite that, they still ranked 21st in the league. Andrews also exploded after Jackson was absent, taking advantage of receiving highly efficient targets in the intermediate area of the field for the first time in his career. We already knew he could win downfield and score touchdowns, but without Jackson Weeks 14-18, Andrews had a 94.2% catchable target rate on throws within 10 yards of line of scrimmage after a 75.8% rate with Jackson on those same targets. On throws downfield, this improvement was not as pronounced, as Jackson was better than his backups vertically."
Expectations for the 2022 Ravens
"I have high expectations for the 2022 Ravens," Sharp wrote. "A prime concern is their lack of wide receiver talent and depth. But I don't expect that alone to derail their ability to achieve their goals and return to the playoff after missing out last year. Recommendations: Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North +185 & Baltimore Ravens over 9.5 wins -150"
Lamar Jackson Sounds Off Against Bernard Pollard's Criticism
Usually, Jackson's Twitter feed is retweets of Bible scripture and things he finds funny enough for a retweet. However, on Wednesday night, Jackson got into a Twitter exchange with former Ravens safety Bernard Pollard.
Pollard has long criticized Jackson on Twitter.
It appears Jackson has had enough of the slander.
Midway through the exchange, the NFL's Twitter account posted about Jackson's career achievements, which Jackson quote tweeted.