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Mailbag: Will Zay Flowers Hit Another Level Post-Bye?

WR Zay Flowers
WR Zay Flowers

Mink: I do think there's going to be more opportunities for Zay Flowers following Mark Andrews' injury and we already saw some of that in Los Angeles before the bye. Flowers had eight targets in that game, the most he's seen since Week 6 in London. He also played 94% of the offensive snaps.

The question, as you raised, is whether Flowers will start getting more downfield targets. I asked Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken that question before breaking for the bye. Here's his answer:

"We're always trying to look for opportunities for [Flowers] and some of our other players to get the ball down the field. Sometimes it doesn't present itself. The other night, he was certainly in some of those pockets. On some of the plays we may have checked the ball down, we were trying to get him down the field. He's a guy you're trying to get the ball to in a number of ways. Where there is space, that's good for him. Certainly, putting it down the field … To me, the biggest thing is how do you get him the ball in space? It's not even so much down the field as where can you get him where he's hard to bring down? He can turn a short pass into an explosive [play], so those are the things that we're constantly trying to work through, as [we are] with all of our skill players."

Flowers has been the Ravens' highest-targeted player, and I also think Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, and Nelson Agholor have been playing at high levels and are worthy of bump-ups in targets. When it comes to extended plays, where Lamar Jackson and Andrews have had such a great connection, I see a budding chemistry with Jackson and Flowers too. I expect that we'll see some more big plays from Flowers in that department as well, even though it's not part of the script.

It should be noted that Flowers has played a lot of snaps during his rookie year. When asked about the proverbial "rookie wall," however, Flowers scoffed. He doesn't look like he's slowing down at all.

Downing: The speculation around possibly signing Zach Ertz makes sense. He's a proven player who has won a Super Bowl and the Ravens will be without Andrews. But I don't expect Ertz to land in Baltimore, and Head Coach John Harbaugh seemed to make that pretty clear during his press conference Monday, saying, "We like our tight ends. The guys that we have right now – our young guys – they're real guys, they're real players, and I think, right now, we'll just roll with those guys."

The Ravens invested fourth-round picks in tight ends Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar last year, and they're confident in what they can do. Likely is more of the receiving threat with Andrews sidelined, and he brings some nice catch-and-run ability to the equation. If the Ravens signed Ertz, then he'd take a big chunk of those targets and snaps away from Likely.

The other interesting point about Harbaugh's comment is that he also brought up Andrews returning later this season. Harbaugh previously said that Andrews had a shot to come back and play this season, and he reiterated that this week. "I'm not ruling out Mark Andrews for the down-the-road future at all," Harbaugh said. The exact timeline for Andrews' return hasn't been shared publicly, but NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported at the time of the surgery that Andrews could potentially return if the Ravens make a "deep playoff run." How deep does that run need to be to get Andrews back on the field? Harbaugh's comments indicate that he's certainly hopeful about seeing Andrews in uniform again this season, which would be a major boost for this team.

Mink: The Rams have three superstar players: Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald. Rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua is one of the leading candidates for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The matchups against Kupp, Nacua and Donald are all great ones to watch.

Brandon Stephens has done a spectacular job against top receivers and the hopeful return of Marlon Humphrey this week should help with defending the Rams' talented wideouts. I don't expect the Ravens will use either of their cornerbacks to shadow anyone. Donald will be a great test for center Tyler Linderbaum and the Ravens' guards, Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson. Even though Donald's stats are a bit down this year (six sacks), he's still one of the most dominant interior pass rushers and can wreck a game.

Downing: The notion of players taking less to allow the roster to stay intact is always a bit of a fallacy. Tom Brady did several team friendly deals in his career, but he still made more than $330 million on those deals, so he wasn't exactly playing for pennies. Players rightfully want to maximize their value, and that means they may go elsewhere in free agency if they can cash in with a bigger contract. That's just the cycle in the NFL, particularly for teams like the Ravens that have a strong drafting history.

The reality is that it will be difficult for the Ravens to keep Justin Madubuike, Patrick Queen, and Geno Stone when they hit free agency in the spring. All three players are having excellent seasons, and other teams will likely try to lure them away from Baltimore with big contracts. The Ravens do have the franchise tag at their disposal if they wanted to use that on Madubuike or Queen, and that makes it more likely that at least one of them will remain in Baltimore next year. Of course, the Ravens would love to sign all three of those players, but they are tight on salary cap space and that will make for an interesting offseason.

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