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News & Notes: Mark Andrews Is Making Progress and 'Seeing the Bigger Picture'

TE Mark Andrews
TE Mark Andrews

The status of All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews (knee/shoulder) has not been determined for Sunday's game against the Panthers, but he practiced on a limited basis Thursday for the second straight day.

"You never know," Andrews said when asked if he would return after sitting out Week 9 against the Saints.

Andrews hates missing playing time whether it's a game or practice, and having a bye last week gave him more time to recover. However, Andrews is slowly learning more patience in his fifth season, and he knows the Ravens need him for the long haul with eight games still left in the regular season and a hopeful trip to the playoffs.

"It's been tough, but being in the league a little while now, you've seen the big picture," Andrews said. "They've got a great staff here, great coaches, great teammates. But I'm feeling good. Just maturity, seeing the bigger picture has been big for me."

Baltimore is on a three-game winning streak and rookie tight end Isaiah Likely has stepped up recently with seven catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns over his last two games. Andrews said he will return whenever he feels ready, but he's happy to see Likely flourish.

"When I'm good to go, I'm good to go," Andrews said. "It's awesome that we're able to win regardless. The main thing is us winning and nothing else matters.

"He's (Likely) playing really good ball. I think it's been good for him getting even more reps. Him and I on the field at the same time is going to be dangerous."

David Ojabo Says He's Ready If Called Upon

Second-round outside linebacker David Ojabo (Achilles) has been a full participant in practice and hopes to be active for Sunday's game for his NFL debut.

"If my number is called, I just know I'll be ready," Ojabo said. "I feel good. I feel great actually."

Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald coached Ojabo at Michigan and likes what he's seeing at practice.

"He is playing fast," Macdonald said. "Obviously, the playbook, he's familiar with, so it's just a matter of getting ready to roll. But I think his confidence is right there, and he looks good."

Greg Roman Discusses NFL Trending Toward Run Game

The Ravens have been trendsetters in the run game over the past few years and set the all-time team record in 2019 for most rushing yards (3,296) in a season. However, other teams are taking a cue from Baltimore this season by relying more on their rushing attacks. According to ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky, the league-wide average for yards per rush was 4.5 heading into Week 11, the highest in NFL history.

Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, who is known for his run game schemes, is not surprised by the trend.

"If you can run the ball effectively, and by effectively, I mean A; make first downs running it and B; run it when you have to run it, the value there is greater than it's been in times past, just by the nature of how defenses are playing," Roman said. "That's going to change week to week, but overall big picture, there's more value there now for sure." 

The Ravens have the NFL's second-ranked rushing attack averaging 168.1 yards per game, and power back Gus Edwards (hamstring) could return Sunday. Roman is looking forward to what Edwards brings, knowing his physical running can be even more effective late in the season.

"I've always said Gus has been one of the more underrated players in the NFL when you look at his yards per carry," Roman said. "When you really look at his body of work, it's pretty darn good. So, the more we can get him back up to speed being 'Gus the Bus,' especially as winter turns winter, it's really going to help us."

Josh Oliver Has Earned His Way Into Important Role

Tight end Josh Oliver played a season-high 65% of the offensive snaps in Week 9 and has played at least 30% of the snaps every game. That wasn't expected when the season began, but Oliver's physical blocking has become a key to Baltimore's offense.

"He won a roster spot in training camp," Roman said. "It was definitely not a sure thing, and he just won it. For him to not be on the team for us would have been ridiculous with how he was improving.

"He just made us put him on the team, and he continues to make us play him. As far as his blocking, it is so much improved from a year ago, probably as much as any player I've ever worked with over one year's time. It's a credit to him."

Macdonald Likes Kyle Hamilton's Effectiveness Playing Nickel

Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton is another young player trending in a positive direction, after playing a season-high 75% of the defensive snaps against the Saints. Hamilton's size (6-foot-3), wingspan and athleticism has allowed him to cover tight ends and bigger receivers, and he's also an effective blitzer. Macdonald has used Hamilton has a nickel back who can defend both the run and pass.

"He is kind of an unconventional body there," Macdonald said. "He's so big and takes up a lot of space. He's very good on the perimeter game, the RPO [run-pass option] game on the perimeter, and obviously he's a good blitzer coming off the edge. Then if you need him to play deep zone … he's a safety by trade, so he can play back there as well."

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