Mark Andrews’ sure hands and knack for finding the end zone have made him the favorite target of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who instinctively homes in on the versatile tight end when pressured in the pocket.
After hauling in a team-high 10 touchdown passes for Baltimore last season, Andrews scored twice Sunday in a 38-6 rout of Cleveland. He’s got the body of a tight end — 6-foot-5, 256 pounds — with the talent of a wide receiver.
“If it’s a DB guarding him, a safety or linebacker, it doesn’t really matter,” Jackson said. “He’s going to do a great job of getting open. He’s going to score a touchdown nine times out of 10. That’s my guy. He makes my job easier, for sure.”
Andrews played wide receiver in high school and was recruited by Oklahoma to play that position, but was asked to convert to tight end after a redshirt freshman season. He embraced the switch, and finished his college career as the school’s career leader in yards receiving (1,765) for a tight end, to go along with 112 catches and 22 TDs.
“I love the tight end position. It’s such a unique thing,” Andrews said Wednesday. “Once I decided to be a tight end and really invest into it, that’s when things started to click. It’s not a position where you can go in there and just run routes. It’s a tough position, a unique position, but for me, it fits really well.”
Drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft, Andrews had 34 catches as a rookie before blossoming in tune with Jackson last season. Andrews earned a Pro Bowl berth after catching 64 passes for 852 yards and leading all NFL tight ends in touchdowns.
Jackson gives much of the credit to Andrews for the duo’s success together, but Andrews sees things differently.
“It’s just a blessing to be able to play with him,” Andrews said of Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP. “He says I make his job easy, but it’s the other way around, for sure.”
Maybe it’s best to just say that Jackson and Andrews are good for each other.
“They’re both very talented and have a very good feel for the passing game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They’ve developed a good feel for one another and how they’re going to react in different situations, and that’s what you see on the field.”
Sometimes, it just comes down to playing street ball. When a set play breaks down, Jackson and Andrews have the uncanny ability to turn a tough situation into a big gainer.
“It’s kind of something that happens,” Andrews said. “Him being able to scramble and then feel where I’m going to go, and I’m able to feel where he may throw the ball or where the open spot is.”
Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman received kudos last season for devising an attack that relied heavily on the running game and Jackson’s ability to carry the ball or throw outside the pocket. Baltimore still wants to run, but intends to take advantage of Andrews’ unique skill set.
Andrews lined up on the outside on several occasions against the Browns. Although he’s not adverse to throwing a block or working free from inside the formation, Andrews won’t deny his affinity for playing the role of a wide receiver.
“I love being outside,” he said. ”It’s something I’m real comfortable with. I think it creates a little bit more mismatches for the defense.”
Inside or out, Andrews simply wants to contribute. Jackson calls him the best tight end in the league, and while Andrews won’t necessarily agree, he acknowledged that it’s a goal he wants to reach.
“I try not to put too much thought into that stuff. It’s just about going out every week, playing the best you can and doing everything you can to win games and help your team,” Andrews said. “But I want to be the best, and I’ve said that. I’ve been open about that.”
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