Ravens TE An­drews flour­ishes as Jack­son’s fa­vorite tar­get

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By David Gins­burg As­so­ci­ated Press

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Bal­ti­more Ravens were pre­par­ing for the 2018 NFL draft when coach John Har­baugh be­gan study­ing tape of a pretty good tight end at Ok­la­homa by the name of Mark An­drews.

“He al­ways got open. He al­ways made catches. He had a knack,” Har­baugh re­called. “You’re like, ‘Is he go­ing to be able to get that open and make those plays in the NFL?’”

The an­swer: Un­doubt­edly, yes.

Fol­low­ing a mod­est rookie sea­son, An­drews led the Ravens this year with 64 catches, 852 yards re­ceiv­ing and 10 touch­down re­cep­tions. He also earned an in­vi­ta­tion to the Pro Bowl and is one big rea­son why Bal­ti­more (14-2) will bring a 12-game win­ning streak into its play­off opener Satur­day night against the Ten­nessee Ti­tans.

Sure, the Ravens are known for their abil­ity to run. But when dual-threat quar­ter­back La­mar Jack­son de­cides to throw, more of­ten that not he will start his pro­gres­sion with An­drews.

“Mark does a great job of reading the de­fense, know­ing when they’re zon­ing,” Jack­son said. “He finds a way to get open. I just call it street ball.”

An­drews was tar­geted 98 times this sea­son, 27 more than run­ner-up Mar­quise Brown and at least twice as of­ten as any­one else. In ad­di­tion, his 10 TD catches were only one fewer than the com­bined to­tal of ev­ery­one else on the squad.

An­drews is the big­gest threat among the re­ceivers, and that’s not just be­cause of his 6-foot-5, 256-pound frame.

“The quar­ter­back has a lot of con­fi­dence in him,” Ten­nessee coach Mike Vra­bel said Tues­day. “He’s got great length, good body con­trol, good hands, catches it in traf­fic and can create space with his body. It looks like the quar­ter­back re­ally trusts him and likes him and knows where he’s go­ing to be.”

An­drews was a re­ceiver in high school and was re­cruited by Ok­la­homa to be a wide­out be­fore mak­ing the switch early in his ca­reer with the Soon­ers. In his fi­nal col­lege sea­son, he had 62 catches for 958 yards and eight TDS to earn the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end.

And yet, An­drews was the sec­ond tight end drafted by the Ravens in 2018, be­hind Hay­den Hurst. An­drews fi­nally went in the third round, but that doesn’t mean the scouts — and Har­baugh — did not ap­pre­ci­ate his body of work.

“The truth is, I think hind­sight would say that he was un­der­val­ued by the NFL world of eval­u­a­tion,” Har­baugh said. “But when we first did it, he was our top tight end in the rank­ings.”

Jack­son and An­drews en­tered the NFL to­gether, and it didn’t take a whole lot of prac­tice for them to get on the same page — even if it wasn’t pre­cisely out of the play­book

“I would run a route maybe a lit­tle dif­fer­ently than how it was drawn up, and he would see it the same way and would throw it per­fectly on time,” An­drews said. “We’ve had that kind of chem­istry pretty early on from the start.”

Hurst and Nick Boyle give Jack­son another cou­ple op­tions in terms of tight ends to tar­get. But it’s clear who is the No. 1 choice.

“Ob­vi­ously, he likes his Pro Bowler, Mark An­drews,” Ti­tans safety Kenny Vac­caro said. “I think what makes him good is La­mar trusts him.”

Vac­caro lauded An­drews for his “catch ra­dius” — the abil­ity to snag a ball in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity — along with the tight end’s ef­fort to make the catch when the ball is at its high­est point.

Though An­drews has dis­played soft hands down­field, he’s not afraid to bang hel­mets on the line of scrim­mage.

“I’m never go­ing to shy away from some­one. I don’t fear any­body,” he in­sisted. “A lot re­ceiv­ing tight ends, you look at them and they don’t go into the block want­ing to block. That’s not who I am. I’m a guy who wants to do my job to the best of my abil­ity. I’ve worked re­ally hard at get­ting better at that.”

Notes: RB Mark In­gram (calf) did not prac­tice. In­gram sus­tained the in­jury on Dec. 22 at Cleve­land and was ex­pected to play Satur­day night, but Har­baugh said he would not pro­vide in­jury up­dates this week . ... Jack­son turned 23 on Tues­day.

NICK WASS/AP

Bal­ti­more Ravens quar­ter­back La­mar Jack­son, 8, cel­e­brates his touch­down with team­mate tight end Mark An­drews, 89, in the first half of an NFL foot­ball game, Sun­day, Dec. 1, 2019, in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land.

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