Baltimore Ravens: Don’t overthink the third tight end spot
The Baltimore Ravens don’t need to overthink this number three tight end thing:
This time last season, the Ravens were raving about their trio of talent at tight end. Now with Hayden Hurst being traded away to the Atlanta Falcons, the Ravens are down to two of that three. With no notable names being added into the picture, it leaves many wondering what the Ravens are doing with the position.
Being a run orientated team, the Ravens would be expected to continue using that position heavily like last season, but the answer may not be adding a new player. With many roster battles occurring for more spots than roster spots, tight end may be a position that can be a man under to allow for someone else to make the team. The answer to that is Patrick Ricard.
Mark Andrews, the fantasy tight end everybody wants played just 41 percent of offensive snaps last season. Although statistically he was fantastic, he can build in many areas of his game, specifically blocking. When Andrews was in the ball game it was almost a dead giveaway that they would be passing. Andrews in a three-point stance doesn’t occur often and he often times can be seen as an “H-Back” or in the slot.
This gives defenses match up problems, but the difference between Mark Andrews and the upper echelon of tight ends who have been recently getting big deals is their ability to play in line, as a natural tight end. In the Ravens move offense this is less important, but without Hayden Hurst, the Ravens will need to find suitable blocking to replace his impact.
Nick Boyle last season signed a three year, $18 million contract and delivered with his best professional season yet. 31 catches and his first professional touchdown and a lot of good blocking was provided by Boyle last year. The Ravens are asking a lot from Boyle this season in the passing game to help take some of Hurst’s lost touches. Boyle will be the primary tight end for the Ravens this season so it is imperative that he stays healthy and continues to improve.
He has quietly emerged as one of the most consistent and primary players in the Ravens offense. With his contract set to expire in two seasons, Boyle must show growth in the receiving game to get another big money contract extension and this is his opportunity to prove what he can do. Look for Boyle to increase his touchdown impact to at least three and get at least 40 catches this season.
The other options listed as tight end aren’t extremely hopeful, Jerrell Adams, a career backup, and undrafted rookie Eli Wolf, and last year undrafted free agent signing Charles Scarff don’t bring much in the way of impact histories to the table. But one player who has seen a lot of growth is the fullback/defensive lineman
Pat Ricard. He is definitely needed more on offense. His snap count more than doubled from his rookie season going from 14 percent in 2017, down to nine percent in 2018, and back up to 31 percent in 2019. That number can easily get into the mid-40s this season.
Last season we occasionally saw Ricard lined up in line as a tight end and saw him go in motion a lot more than previous seasons. He was used more in the “H-Back” role than a traditional fullback role. Due to the amount of Pistol and Shotgun formations the Ravens run, Ricard is oftentimes offset or sent in motion to help create angles at the point of attack.
For Ricard he has been asked to do a lot that many defensive lineman aren’t asked to do. Remember this guy is 300 pounds, but he doesn’t move around like a 300 pound man at all. Ricards growth over the years from undrafted rookie to Pro Bowl fullback in three seasons.
This year his role can be expanded further. In many running situations the Ravens would use Boyle and Hurst at the same time, this year without Hurst we may see Boyle and Ricard at tight end and could see two running backs in the backfield at a time or could see an increase in the receiver usage. For Ricard to be successful he needs to grow on his receiving statistics. In his career he has 12 catches and three touchdowns. For this year to be a success for him, look for Ricard to double his career output.
Throughout his entire career Ricard has beat the odds. He was undrafted and made the roster as an undrafted free agent, learned a new position on the fly and going into both years two and three, many people doubted that he would make the roster.
His versatility, ability to learn, and athletic traits have kept him on the field. That doesn’t include the nasty mean streak he exhibits on would be tacklers trying to tackle any of the Ravens efficient runners. Their success has been highly reliant on Ricard. The Ravens now have no excuse but to deploy him on offense with the loss of Hayden Hurst.