During the 2019 season, the Baltimore Ravens put together one of the more innovative offenses the league has ever seen. While Lamar Jackson had a big part in making that possible, so did the tight ends.
A three-headed monster consisting of Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle, the tight end group did a little of everything during the season. Last season may have been the year it all came together, but the groundwork began years back. Years prior, tight end was still an important position for Baltimore.
"We've always placed a premium on the position," General Manager Eric DeCosta told reporters on Tuesday at the NFL Combine.
Before Greg Roman became the offensive coordinator this past campaign, he served as the tight ends coach for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. At that time he already had Boyle, who was taken in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Come 2018, the Ravens began to make the switch to a different look on offense. Having the plan to select Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft, DeCosta, who was the assistant GM at the time, and others knew that the tight end position would become crucial in the offense that would be run with Jackson.
"We've always thought that was an important position and then with our offense, Greg Roman, he's always been a coach that liked a lot of multiple looks," DeCosta said. "And I think tight ends really do factor into that."
Therefore, Baltimore put a premium on a few in the draft. Two that received the highest grades from them were Hurst and Andrews. Hurst was someone the Ravens felt comfortable selecting with the 25th overall pick in 2018. But when Andrews was still available in the third round, it seemed like something that was too good to be true.
"People were surprised when we drafted Hayden and then drafted Mark Andrews," DeCosta told reporters on Tuesday at the NFL Combine. "For us, we had high grades on Hayden and also Mark. Hayden we thought was going to be a really good player. But when Mark was there in the third round it made too much sense for us to not take him."
Adding those two with Boyle, who DeCosta sees as one of the best blocking tight ends in football, the Ravens had a lot to work with. DeCosta also throws Pat Ricard into the equation. Though he came out of Maine as a defensive lineman, he's played valuable snaps at fullback and tight end for Baltimore, specifically in 2019.
The Ravens set out to make an impact at the tight end position, and in 2019 they were able to see the fruits of their labor. Andrews put together a dominant season in which he caught 64 passes for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hurst and Boyle acted as serviceable options, both catching 30 or more passes, while Ricard did a little bit of everything.
For Baltimore's offense to do what it did in 2019, the tight end position had to contribute a great amount. Seeing a vision for the future, the Ravens set out to get those pieces through the draft in recent years. The result? Potentially the most talented and deep tight end group in the NFL and an offense like none other.
"I think Greg Roman has done a great job of taking all those pieces and making us a very innovative and unique offense," DeCosta said.
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