Even With Revamped Wide Receiving Corps, Mark Andrews Remains As Important As Ever
Mark Andrews has been so consistently good during his five seasons with the Ravens that it's easy to take the All-Pro tight end for granted.
The splashy signing of Odell Beckham Jr. and first-round selection of Zay Flowers has Ravens fans buzzing with excitement about a revamped wide receiving corps, and rightfully so. But the importance of Andrews to the offense should not be overlooked, Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko noted.
"When talking about the prospects of an improved Ravens' passing offense thanks to new playmakers, conversations should still start and end with Andrews — who remains the most important piece in the puzzle," Platko wrote. "Assuming full and good health, a trio of Beckham, Flowers, and Rashod Bateman is easily the most talented and diverse wide receiver room during [Lamar] Jackson's tenure. [Nelson] Agholor and Devin Duvernay rounding out the group only further solidifies this. Andrews, though, is still who could elevate the receiving corps as a whole to new heights."
Platko pointed out that the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Andrews provides one important ingredient that's missing from the wide receiver room: a tall, big-bodied pass-catcher who can consistently win jump balls and make contested catches.
"Andrews, while obviously not a wide receiver in writing, possesses these traits and has made a living off making tough catches in traffic and 'dunking' on opposing defenders routinely," Platko wrote. "With upgraded receiving talent around him, Andrews might find himself more open than ever in 2023. But his skill set will still remain as important in the offense as ever."
New Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken is well aware of how good Andrews is, and he knows how to utilize tight ends. With Monken as Georgia's offensive coordinator last season, the Bulldogs' leading receiver was Brock Bowers, who won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.
"When you look at the roster, you see, 'OK, Mark, who has done it for 'X' amount of years," Monken said at his introductory press conference. " … The fact of the matter is that he's a tremendous player."
Best Version of Lamar Jackson Makes Ravens Legitimate Challengers to Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are favored to win the AFC North title for an unprecedented third consecutive season, but the Ravens pose a serious threat, Good Morning Football's Jamie Erdhal said.
The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers both improved this offseason and figure to be playoff contenders as well, but Erdahl is bullish on Baltimore for one simple reason. She believes we're going to see the best version of Jackson now that two injury-marred seasons are behind him and his contract situation is settled.
"Anytime anybody plays the Ravens, the Bengals included, you're just going to get the best of this man," Erdahl said. "And if the threat is there to have the best of a guy who has thrown for over 300 yards four times, one time a 400-plus yard game; the best of an MVP-caliber season at 22; the best of seven comebacks, 10-game winning drives; you get the best of that man in your division, I'm sorry, you're going to have a tough day that day.
"You certainly hope the injuries are going to go by the wayside. But the fact that this narrative surrounding him and his commitment and the Ravens' commitment is gone and this man can just play, that I think is a threat to this division straight out."
Analytics Project Ravens Offense to Be Among League's Top Units
NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund’s data points to the Ravens having one of the league's top offenses this season.
Frelund's win-share model projects the Ravens offense to be the eighth-best in the league.
"New Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken should be able to make good on his talk of wanting to throw the ball more this season. The increase in quality and depth among Baltimore's pass-catchers will open the playbook," Frelund wrote. "When you add the elite catch-and-run skills of Odell Beckham Jr., the separation ability of first-round pick Zay Flowers and the health of running back J.K. Dobbins to the presence of veteran tight end Mark Andrews, you've changed the math.
"Taking into account how well Lamar Jackson runs, defenses will have to stay honest, leading to more space on the field and, eventually, touchdowns. When Jackson played last season, the Ravens averaged 23.8 points per game. When he didn't play, that number was 13.7 (including playoffs)."
Meanwhile, NFL.com’s Marc Sessler identified each team's biggest offseason priority. For Baltimore, it's to "bathe in Monken's new scheme."
"The Ravens could use help on defense — cornerback and edge stand out as areas of need — but the transformation on offense is the story of the summer," Sessler wrote. "Greg Roman's medieval ground-and-pound act is out the door, replaced by a Todd Monken-authored playbook that promises more commitment to the pass. With Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson Agholor and first-round rookie Zay Flowers added to a stew starring Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman, Lamar Jackson finally boasts the requisite weapons to shine through the air. No more excuses for a quarterback telling us he's ready to throw for 6,000 yards."
Two Potential Future General Manager Candidates Learned Under Ozzie Newsome
The 33rd Team’s Paul Domowitch named seven personnel executives who will be general manager candidates in 2024. Two names on the list (Bears Assistant GM Ian Cunningham and Steelers Assistant GM Andy Weidl) have something in common: they cut their teeth under Ravens Executive Vice President and former General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
Cunningham joined the Ravens in 2008 as a personnel assistant and served as an area scout from 2013-16. Weidl spent a decade as an area scout for the Ravens before joining the Philadelphia Eagles as their assistant director of player personnel in 2016.
"Guys who learned and trained under Ozzie, it was like getting a law degree from Harvard," NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger said. "He was hard on guys but gave them the leeway to show what they could do. Ozzie and the guys that trained under him, they're not like many other guys. Even in the Ravens' heyday, if you went to practice, Ozzie seldom was on the field. He'd be in a shed with the lawnmowers watching practice. He felt it wasn't his job to be in the spotlight.
"He trained his scouts to work on their weaknesses, work on their blind spots. Anybody who trained under Ozzie, you have to take them seriously as a candidate when there is a job opening. It's like coaching under Andy Reid."