The Ravens' first offensive play Sunday afternoon was a sign of things to come.
Baltimore had all three tight ends on the field to open the game, and the first play was a 25-yard strike down the seam to rookie Nick Boyle. Quarterback Joe Flacco continued to find ways to get the ball to his three young tight ends after that first completion, and the trio figures to be a large part of the offense in the second half of the season.
"That was part of the plan, to play those guys," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We like our guys, and we can do a lot of different things, in the run game and pass game with those guys.
"I do think we'll be seeing more of that as we go forward."
The tight ends finished with 11 catches for 117 yards against Jacksonville. Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams both scored touchdowns, and Boyle also hauled in big catches.
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman often dialed up three tight end sets, and the group helped offset the loss of top pass catcher Steve Smith Sr.
"We had a few more pass plays involved, spread out through the tight end room, which is awesome," Boyle said. "I think we could have always done it, and I think we can continue to do it. Someone described it as a challenge. I really don't think it's a challenge. I really think we could have done that from the beginning, but our group and our coaches are awesome and we need to continue to get better every single week."
The game was the most involved Williams has been in the passing game. The second-round pick finished with four catches for 40 yards and his first career touchdown. The 21-yard score was the first touchdown by a Ravens rookie this season.
"I ran the route, Joe saw me open, and gave me a chance to score," Williams said. "It felt good at the time, but you've got to finish the game off and keep playing. We'll watch film tomorrow and get back to work."
Gillmore had already established himself as an important piece of the passing game long before Sunday's loss to Jacksonville. The big target has been one of Flacco's must trusted weapons all year, and he doesn't see the increased involvement from the tight ends as a major change for him.
"Really, it's just the same stuff we've been working on all season," Gillmore said. "It's just the same stuff we've always done. It just looks more relevant with and some other guys gone."
The tight ends were a bright spot in the disappointing 22-20 loss to the Jaguars. The young targets form a nucleus that will be critical moving forward, and the Ravens will continue to look for ways to get them involved.
Gillmore, Boyle and Williams all expressed confidence in what they can bring to the offense, and they will certainly get their opportunities to make plays over the next seven games.
"It gives us an opportunity to go out there and make plays if they want us to," Williams said. "It's nice getting the playing time, and like I said, tomorrow we'll watch the film and see what happened and see what this next gameplan holds for us."
Check out the best photos from M&T Bank Stadium as the Ravens battle the Jaguars!