With training camp right around the corner, we're breaking down each position's competition. Today is the tight ends.
In the Hunt
- Mark Andrews, 2nd season
- Nick Boyle, 5th season
- Cole Herdman, rookie
- Hayden Hurst, 2nd season
- Charles Scarff, rookie
Who the "starter" is won't matter much because the Ravens will rotate their trio of tight ends throughout games. But breaking down who gets the lion's share of the reps, and in what situations, will be interesting. Last year, Nick Boyle saw the most snaps (650) among Ravens tight ends, per Pro Football Focus. Andrews had 414 snaps and Hurst, who was slowed by a foot injury, had 275.
Because the Ravens' offense will lean heavily on the ground attack, and because Boyle is the unit's best blocker, he'll likely be the starter most games and could once again lead the group in snaps. The Ravens made it a high priority to re-sign him to a lucrative three-year contract this offseason for a reason, because he's a valuable chess piece in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's highly-schemed rushing attack. Boyle has also proven capable enough as a receiver (23 catches for 213 yards) to surprise defenses from time to time and keep them more honest.
With that said, Andrews and Hurst could be in store for "breakout" seasons that put them on the field more often. Andrews put up great stats as a rookie, catching 34 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns. If offseason practices are any indication, he could be a featured receiving target as a big body over the middle or even split out wide. Andrews has also focused on becoming a better blocker this summer, which would get him on the field in more situations.
Hurst's rookie season was derailed by the foot injury that left him behind the pack once he returned to the field. He spent more snaps run blocking then running routes, according to PFF. Hurst is arguably the team's most complete tight end and has added 20 pounds of muscle this offseason. The 2018 first-round pick has the talent and opportunity to show he deserves to be the group's leader. Now he has to stay healthy and stand out from the pack.
It's not a battle for a roster spot, but there's competition between Hurst and Andrews for snaps. Roman will use both a lot and at the same time, but who gets a bigger slice of the pie? Andrews grabbed the reigns when Hurst was injured last year. Now the first-round pick has a chance to wrestle them away.
There is a competition to see if the Ravens keep a fourth tight end. They often have, including last year with Boyle, Hurst, Andrews and Maxx Williams. Williams signed with the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, leaving a pair of undrafted rookie free agents vying to fill the vacancy. Scarff (Delaware) looks the part, standing in at 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, while Herdman (Purdue) was the more accomplished receiver in college. With it looking especially tough to crack the 53-man roster given the depth at other positions, they would have to really shine in training camp to make the team.
Under the Radar
Here's a curveball. The under-the-radar factor in this position group is Bobby Engram, who was moved from coaching the team's wide receivers to tight ends this season. Roman coached the tight ends last year, giving the unit an in-depth schooling on his diverse blocking schemes. Now the players will get more refined teaching on the art of receiving from Engram, a former 14-year NFL receiver. That should especially benefit Andrews and Hurst, who could be dynamic pass catchers with more polish. They both looked improved in that realm during offseason practices.