If there’s one thing for sure about Greg Roman’s new offense he and the team are in the midst of installing, it’s that the tight ends will be highly featured.
The Ravens have always loved their tight ends. Roman adores them.
With Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, first- and third-round picks respectively, going into their second years, and Nick Boyle re-signed to a three-year deal, Roman has plenty of toys to play with.
“Our tight end room is loaded,” Hurst said. “I know we are a huge focal point of this offense, so it’s fun being a tight end here and playing for Baltimore. It’s very exciting.”
The Ravens prioritized adding speed this offseason, drafting wide receivers Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Miles Boykin and running back Justice Hill.
But just because speed isn’t necessarily what comes to mind when thinking about tight ends, don’t think it means Baltimore will lean any less on them.
Baltimore envisions huge blocking roles in its diverse and run-heavy scheme for the tight ends. They will also throw to them quite a bit as well, and even moved former Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram over to coaching the tight ends so they could polish their route-running and receiving.
Not much has changed this offseason for Boyle, other than the new deal. The Ravens made Boyle the first free-agent signing of the offseason, showing how important he is in this system and to this team.
The bigger opportunity for growth resides in Hurst and Andrews. The jump from Year 1 to Year 2 is a big one for all players, and it will be especially critical for the Ravens’ tight end group.
Hurst said he added 20 pounds of muscle, putting him at 265 pounds now. Not only will that make him physically harder for opponents to stop, but Hurst feels like the extra muscle will help protect his foot, which had a screw inserted into it last year and was the real reason his rookie season was so frustrating.
Now, with an offseason in the weight room and a healthy foot, Hurst said he’s on a “mission” this year.
“When you see his build, I think you can see the difference,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He hasn’t lost one step of speed [and has] practiced well, so yes, he’s definitely a man on a mission. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does.”
Andrews is coming from a completely different place than Hurst. While Hurst struggled to see the field and targets, Andrews played in all 16 games as a rookie and posted a franchise rookie record for tight ends with 34 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns. He made some of his biggest plays after Lamar Jackson took over under center.
“For me, it was a lot about getting stronger, getting faster. I ran a ton of routes,” Andrews said. “But especially working on my blocking. I feel like that’s something I can make the biggest stride in from Year One to Year Two is my blocking. So, just trying to be a complete tight end is what I focused on.”
How does an NFL player work on his blocking in the offseason? Andrews hammered his poor older brother, who apparently came away uninjured.
“He’s 27, and no, he held up pretty well,” Andrews said with a laugh. “He’s a big guy.”
If Andrews can become a better blocker and Hurst can be an even stronger blocker and more explosive receiver, they could join Boyle as one of the best tight end trios in the league. SBNation’s Christian D’Andrea ranked Baltimore’s tight ends as the eighth-best unit in the league, and it could finish much higher.
All three are a little different, but they’re all working to make sure any of the three can do whatever is asked. That would make the Ravens less predictable and thus more dangerous.
“All the tight ends right now, we’re all striving to be complete guys,” Andrews said. “Everyone in the room is good at different things, and we’re a pretty complete group as a whole. But, I think you start rotating guys in and it’s difficult for teams to game-plan. It’s going to be tough for teams to really key on who’s in, just because there are so many guys who can do so many different things.”